If you haven’t seen Black Dynamite, I urge you to run to the nearest DVD merchandiser, click on the buy button at Amazon, or at the very least load this sucker up on your Netflix queue. You don’t actually need to see the movie to enjoy the comic book sequel, but viewing Black Dynamite will improve your overall existence on this planet.
Black Dynamite, for those not in the know, worked for the CIA where he acquired a violent skill set that aids him immeasurably in his battles against oppression. He is a human aphrodisiac, possessing the sexual potency and power of Shaft and James Bond — Connery through Brosnan — amplified to the nth power. Black Dynamite is also not exactly the sharpest knife in the drawer, but his talent for deadliness and his raw, manly fortitude substitute for little gray cells.
Whereas the original Black Dynamite sent up a plethora of Blaxploitation grindhouse gems, the comic book takes aim primarily at the second Shaft sequel, Shaft in Africa. In that venerated cheese, Richard Roundtree’s Shaft digs it in Africa and proves to be the brother to all men and women by shutting down a modern-day slave operation.
Our story begins when a slave escapes Slave Island,a resort celebrating the South’s history, which lies 17 miles off the East Coas. As premises go, this could have actually worked in a serious medium. However, writer Brian Ash immediately adds an extra kick by placing the Slave Island near civilization. It’s too far-fetched to think that an antebellum vacation spot complete with slaves could exist so overtly close to the U.S.
The escapee ends up in a hospital where a caring doctor with a familiar name calls in Black Dynamite. After following a clue banded around the slave’s ankle — one of the first hilarious topic-specific jokes, Dynamite must brave shark infested waters, ala the wonderful shark vs. zombie moment in Lucio Fulci’s Zombie, and reach his objective. Once there, Black Dynamite’s repetitive dialogue, sexual stamina and bad motherness treats the reader in panel after panel. Simultaneously, Ash takes sharp shots at action movie conventions. For example, in one of my favorite sly gags, Black Dynamite takes the place of one of the guards. Let’s translate that. A giant black man puts on a Confederate uniform and passes for one of the skinny, blonde white dudes. Ash, however, isn’t always after a laugh. Sometimes he demonstrates an acute sense of political savvy buried beneath the comedy. For instance, the Southern gentlemen whipping the slaves resent being called Nazis.
Jun Lofamia’s artwork makes Black Dynamite a visual feast. His art recalls the work of Pablo Marcos, Esteban Maroto, Sanjulian and Alex Nino. Black Dynamite is the spitting image of Michael Jai White in funky getup, and the realism of the art makes this farce even juicier. When Black Dynamite makes sweet love to the ladies, the moments are at once genuinely erotic and over the top. The colors of Jim Ciquet merely increase the sensuality, especially the aesthetic of vanilla on chocolate.
Even exploitation mavericks had the foresight to realize the inherent weaknesses in slavery and human trafficking stories. That’s why they modeled their works on the reality of the situation. Slavery tends to occur in remote regions, flourishing in the Third World. While there may be links to modern civilization, as in the disappearance of young girls in Taken‘s present-day France, the key to slavery’s success is that it stays underground and/or keeps corrupted officials well fed with filthy lucre. Protagonists as diverse as Laura Gemser’s Emmanuelle to the Phantom have dealt with slavery, and, in reality, the U.S. State Department investigates such cases.
Slavery still exists today. It’s a serious subject and shouldn’t be laughed at. The creative team does not poke fun at the crime. It lampoons the criminals with attacks of goofiness that work because of the po-faced artwork and a tone replicating the precision camp atmosphere of Black Dynamite.
EDITOR’S NOTE: Danny Djeljosevic also reviewed Black Dynamite: Slave Island. Read his thoughts, too!