Saladin Ahmed (Writer), Sami Kivela (Artist) and Taj Tenfold (Cover Artist)
January 24, 2018
I’m a fan of the Lois Lane type (and the character who inspired it): a woman determined to get to the truth, do exceptionally well at her job, and knows she’s good at what she does. So saying that I was excited that a new comic series would star a black woman reporter in 1970s Detroit is a severe understatement. Cue Elena Abbott: a chain-smoking reporter for the Detroit Daily newspaper. Her mere presence aggravates the white men around her as both a black woman and as an agitator (or as some would call it: reporter) but Elena is too stylish and too busy writing for a greater good to care.
In this debut issue, she deals with the repercussions of her recent police brutality article while pursuing a new story involving a decapitated horse and a dead young black man. It’s clear that it has something to do with her deceased husband and the occult which adds an interesting element to a narrative that is steeped in big social issues like racism. Hugo Award-nominated writer Saladin Ahmed makes sure to set readers up in the world of 1970s Detroit where the Black Panthers are quick to be used as possible scapegoats and black women experience both sexism and racism, especially when in spaces made up of mostly white men. I mentioned Elena’s style which penciller Sami Kivela does so well along with the overall look of the issue. I get a pulp-y feel from some panels like when Elena is surprised and I look forward to seeing more outfits from that decade.
A critique I do have of the first issue is the repetition of Elena’s view on order. It appears only twice but it feels a bit too heavy-handed and would have benefitted from being shown or mentioned only once off hand, if at all. It’s also obvious that Ahmed and artist Sami Kivela aren’t black women, which gave me a moment of hesitation given how few women of colour, especially black women have high profile books in comics. That said, I do trust Ahmed who has a personal history with Detroit and with activism through his father and great grandmother. In fact, his great grandmother was a private detective in New York before focusing on her activism in Detroit. I hope to see a variety of black people in terms of skin tone and hair style from Kivela as the series progresses.
I see a lot of potential in this new series. I can’t wait for Elena Abbott to be a name thrown alongside Lois Lane or at least, become one of hopefully many women of colour in comics who stand side by side the iconic journalist. I think the two would get along great.