Retro is in, retro is now. Whether it’s an appeal to nostalgia, a loving homage, or a satirical retrospective, flavors of the past are constantly bleeding into present media. The comic medium is no exception, with faux-aged comics periodically popping up to recall the trends and tropes of the golden & silver ages. It can be dangerous territory to explore, and very rarely do such comics really strike the right balance within the aesthetics to really accurately emulate older comics without becoming caricatures of the past.
I very much enjoyed the Black Dynamite film but had mixed feelings about the animated series, so I was cautiously intrigued by the Black Dynamite comic series. While the film was both a love-letter and parody of the Blaxploitation genre, I felt that the animated series bordered on self-parody, and I was concerned that the comics would fall into the same trap. Thankfully, my concerns were misplaced.
Black Dynamite #3 is a fun and snappy book, moving along page by page with a rhythmic staccato that keeps you engaged. This issue follows Black Dynamite on a mission to a secluded Shaolin temple besieged by Moreau-esque beast men. Moving from plot point to plot point without ever lingering, the book has a driven quality that does actually remind me of golden or silver age books. Unencumbered by the expectations of being atmospheric or “cinematic,” older comics tended to move at a faster clip, and BD#3 successfully implements that tempo.
The plot itself is a silly excuse (and I don’t say that as a bad thing) for some action, some monster men, a unique setting, and some kung-fu movie jokes. To be honest I barely remember most of the actual plot details, as pretty much every single element was a MacGuffin. And that’s not a problem. The humor is on point and there are a few particular gags that caught me off guard and made me laugh out loud, which I don’t often do with comics. The action isn’t especially thrilling, but it serves its purpose as a joke in-and-of itself.
Artistically the book is good, but I can’t say it’s great. Comic scholars and lovers of the classics will find that the emulation of silver age aesthetics is of mixed success, though, overall, it does successfully communicate the idea of “retro”. Brushy lines and mechanical half-tone patterns effectively tell me what they were going for, and the carefully selected palette has some sensitivities to it that really hit home.
Though retro-homage comics can be huge disasters when done wrong, Black Dynamite #3 isn’t one of them. Much like the film that started the Black Dynamite franchise, it successfully balances reverence and irreverence for the past to create something that has a classic vibe but modern sensibility. If you enjoyed the film or the TV series, Black Dynamite #3 is worth picking up- if you haven’t seen them, get on it, and then read this comic too.