Ayala, Vita. Our Work Fills The Pews. Black Mask Studios, 2016.
In this dystopian comic, fundamentalist groups and far-right politicians have led America into a culture war. For the first time in 80 years, internment camps exist in America, this time containing all manner of deviants, such as homosexuals, Muslims, Jews, the poor, and the mentally ill; in the women’s camps, women are made to breed. Marcus, a gay black man, is a bounty hunter, who can stay out of the camps as long as he hunts camp runaways; however, he begins to question his own livelihood when he comes across eight-year-old Sojourner and tries to help her sneak across the border to safety. This comic is similar to other dystopian futurist comics like V For Vendetta that seek to question the direction the world is moving in. Ayala especially seeks to illuminate how little bodily autonomy women have, and how tenuous freedom is for marginalized groups, how easy it is to find oneself in a position of false freedom, in which one is only free relative to other groups.
Mills, Shawna. Violator Union. Mugen Studios, 2013.
This dystopian comic follows a group of career criminals as they fight an oppressive regime. The characters are truly awful people (a thief, a serial killer, an escaped prisoner, and a girl they kidnapped) whose paths crossed by accident, and who refuse to abide by any rules, accomplishing their own selfish goals more than helping innocent people, as one would expect from such a genre. Mills’ comic is not anchored so much by ideology and trope as it is by an exploration of the individual and their responsibilities to each other. Mills’ art style is vivid, with a strong use of bright colors, and heavily influenced by graffiti and early hip hop.
Jetter, Avy. Nuthin’ Good Ever Happens at 4 A.M. http://nuthingoodat4.com.
An apocalyptic dystopia set in downtown Oakland, this zombie horror comic explores the effects that apocalyptic devastation has on working-class and poor communities of color. The comic aggressively upends the horror genre, which is one usually reserved for white middle-class protagonists, by centering so many characters of color in the narrative; it also lampoons the horror stereotype that the black character is always the first to die, demonstrating a range of strong black protagonists. Jetter’s style is heavy on the line work, giving it a sketchy, noir feel reminiscent of 1970s underground comics artists like Robert Crumb or Ralph Steadman.
Richardson, Afua Njoki. Genius. Image Comics, 2015.
This comic examines the fraught relationship between law enforcement and communities of color. Destiny Ajaye, a black woman living in South Central L.A., is one of the greatest military minds of our generation. She uses her tactical abilities to lead an army of gangbangers in a revolt against a repressive police force and to secede three blocks of her ‘hood from the Union. Richardson has previously done illustration work for Marvel’s World of Wakanda, which is evident in this comic’s visual style: it borrows a lot from traditional superhero comics, with lush coloring and shapely, athletic women. However, Richardson’s female characters are at once strong and emotionally nuanced, providing a satisfying alternative to the stereotypes of the superhero genre.