Antar: The Black Knight, written by Nnedi Okorafor, Art by Eric Battle, Colors by Jason Scott Jones, Letters by Thomas Mauer, Edited by Sohaib Awan, IDW Comics

Now that we’ve gotten past all the attributing artists that made even just this FIRST issue possible, let’s get to the review, shall we?

Antar, or Antarah, is a historical figure who left behind a vast collection of poetry–the only proof of his corporeal form. He was an African slave to the Arab, Prince Shedad who was also his father, by way of rape.

Nnedi Okorafor has become something of an author crush for me lately, and so when I saw this first issue in my local comic shop, I jumped at the chance to grab the last copy on the shelf. Okorafor also wrote the novella trilogy, “Binti,” which I am teaching in my American Literature class, connecting it to concepts of identity and James Baldwin. The first installment of Binti is fantastic–one of the most interesting SF pieces I’ve read in quite some time, even though it is shorter than 100 pages. As soon as I saw who had written Antar, I couldn’t NOT by it.

The first issue of Antar tells the story of how Antar came to be a camel driver for his father, how he fell in love with a young woman–also a slave–only to lose that love and be picked for his own primal fury as a warrior-slave.

The production is worth the price of admission as well. Each page takes on a color tone or sequence, that creates an atmospheric experience to live in. The pen-lines are impressionistic at times, with liberal crosshatching that serves the purpose of a frayed or tenuous reality–in which Antar lives. The colors characters wear on their person are rich, and even those that could be garish take on a darker, earth-toned shade, as though they have the sand of the desert rubbed into them.

Interestingly, on my first read through I was intrigued by the story–but not fascinated–now that I go back through, examining the production, the writing, the style, I find myself far more interested in where this piece will go. Certainly worth the $4 you’ll spend on it.

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10/3/14

November 2nd, 1935

Dear Hildebrand,

I just read your letter. Bloody awful corresponding with you like this. The mail service is something of a terror, but I must become too critical, it is over 3,000 miles. I suppose that fact my letters make it to you, and your’s to me, is a miracle, and not a small one.

It sounds as though I’ve left the continent not a moment too soon. You do know how I love to say I told you so but now I am not in a mood to do so. That flyer you sent me sent shivers up mine spine. Felt like I’d been dumped in the frigid water of the Atlantic. To declare Jews no longer citizens of Germany is nothing less than appalling. Deciphering what I could of that chart I got the impression the German government equates Jews to monkeys or some such. Absurd to be sure, but it is dangerous thinking, no doubt. I will say this, Hildebrand, You ought to have come with me as I had said. An academic like yourself is as much danger as a Jew like me. If you are ever able to make it across the atlantic, please do so. Think of all the conversations we might have late at night. Would be a strange treat to see you again. Germany being your natural habitat, I can’t quite imagine you striding the streets of New York.

I’d like to hear more about the story you’re writing. It must be something of special significance. You usually coveted your unfinished pieces most jealously. I you thinking of going to a publisher? Or have their been more laws enacted to keep your types of writing hidden from the public eye. Please, do not cave to such ruffians. Live by the morals you set yourself, not imposed upon you this fascist dictatorship.

Merlin is coming along in New York quite well now. After the initial shock of crossing the Atlantic he’s seemed to find a renascence within his old age. It must have been buried deep deep down.

Yesterday we went to Central Park. Lovely place. Like being in a forest in the middle of the city. Contradictory to the extreme while sitting amid the bare knuckle branches of the ash trees and throwing bread to the birds–pigeons–to hear the honking of cars and the hustle of the city.

Merlin sits on the bench writing away in his notebook. Says he’s started a novel. Can’t imagine what it’s about. Says he hasn’t written anything of note since his late forties which was nigh twenty years ago, poor chap. Told him I’d never published anything ever. He told me to start with poetry. I responded that there is nothing so drab as poetry. Seemed to think it funny.

Ana has been my most valuable asset. Not only did she help me on the train–feels like a lifetime ago–in Germany, but now she’s given me a warm place to rest my head. It isn’t anything much, just a couch within a small flat, but it does beat the winter chill. New York has far more snow than southern England, Hildebrand, and perhaps even more so than Berlin itself.