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The Truth: Red, White and Black #3 By Matt Martin
Marvel Comics – Robert Morales (w); Kyle Baker (a)
Man, it is such a pain to review this book. Because of the world we live in, there’s a suspicion in a lot of white guys’ hearts that if we say anything negative about something that involves a primarily black cast, we’ll be pegged as racists. And no one wants that. Well, I suppose people who are genuinely bigoted don’t mind so much, but that’s not the point. So, as I recall, I reviewed the first issue of this, then kind of panicked and passed on reviewing the second. Don’t want to come off as too hateful, y’know.
But here’s the fact, at least the way I see it: this book just isn’t that good.
Wanna hear something funny? Originally, I wrote “But here’s the fact: etc., etc. etc.” above. Then I thought, I should be more specific, make sure that I don’t seem like I’m trying to force my opinion on anyone. It’s not a fact; it’s an opinion. That’s what I’m talking about here. Damn.
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Marvel had an absolutely huge deal out of this book and I was all geared up for it. For one thing, I’m a very big Kyle Baker fan. To the best of my knowledge, I have all of his work. And I’ve enjoyed it. A lot. I’ve sold more copies of You Are Here and The Cowboy Wally Show based on personal recommendations than any other graphic novel or trade paperback in my store. For another thing, it’s simply a very good concept for a story, one that should have been done a long time ago (though, I understand why it wasn’t, since Marvel was poorly managed for quite a while and some would say it still is). It’s a set-up that’s entirely logical, based on what we know about the ethics (or lack thereof) of the American government during that time period.
However, there is a problem. It’s a big one. The problem is that the book simply isn’t that interesting.
Morales has, for all intents and purposes, taken a high concept that could have really gone somewhere and boiled it down to “white people bad, black people not.” I mean, it’s hard to say “black people good” because there’s not even a really strong positive black character here yet. One of them is openly characterized as a sociopath in the summary page. The protagonists (Maurice Canfield, Isaiah Bradley and Lucas Evans) can be accurately summarized as “the rich guy, the poor guy and the cynical veteran.” They’re absolutely that one-dimensional.
Now, this is not to suggest that the characters of African-American descent are the only flat ones in the book. Apparently, there is no a single, solitary soul in the American military who happens to be both not black and disturbed by this project. Sure, we’ve got a blonde-headed nurse whispering “Good luck” to Evans as she injects him with the Super Soldier Serum, but she still injects him, doesn’t she? So she’s not too bothered by it all, evidently.
Kyle Baker, who I hoped would be the saving grace of this book if the story fell through, is turning in possibly the worst performance of his career. Now, for Baker, a bad performance is still half-decent, but a lot of the panels here simply look really rushed. It’s like he’s not even trying. I remarked in an earlier review that it’s sort of embarrassing to have recommended this book to people based on the prospect of Baker’s artwork, because they keep coming in my store and saying, “You like this guy?” To which I have to respond, “Yeah, but you don’t understand…” And then show them some of his more impressive work to try and save some shred of credibility.
However, my biggest complaint with the book is the glacial pace that it’s setting. And apparently Marvel is silently acknowledging this by extending the length of the mini-series by an issue. Think I’m kidding? Look at the bottom of the cover. “III of VII.” Bet you missed that, ‘cause I almost did.
In the end, I feel like I’m being overly harsh. But then again, I don’t feel bad for having high expectations, since Marvel set the bar so damnably high with all their hype. For the amount of time Quesada and Jemas spent talking about this book, it should have been much, much better. I’ll be thinking along the same lines next week and looking in your direction, Rawhide Kid.