Monday, May 9, 2016

I Reads You Review: DREAMING EAGLES #1


[This review was originally posted on Patreon.]

WRITER: Garth Ennis
ARTIST: Simon Coleby
COLORS: John Kalisz
LETTERS: Rob Steen
COVER: Francesco Francavilla
VARIANT COVERS: Brian Stelfreeze; Phil Hester
32pp, Color, $3.99 U.S. (December 2015)

For mature readers

Dreaming Eagles created by Garth Ennis

“We Cannot Consecrate”

Okay.  So back on September 11, 2015, Comic Book Resources posted an interview that assistant editor, Brett White, conducted with comic book luminary, Garth Ennis, concerning his then-upcoming miniseries, Dreaming Eagles.  Drawn by Simon Coleby, Dreaming Eagles tells the story of the first African-American fighter pilots to join the United States Army Air Force in World War II.  The series also deals with the 1960s Civil Right movement.

The first question that White asked Ennis was related to Mark Waid and J.G. Jones' current miniseries, Strange Fruit.  That comic book blends superhero comics to tell a story of racism during the Great Mississippi Flood of 1927.  Prior to the release of the first issue, there was some criticism by African-Americans leveled at Wade and Jones for telling their story in this manner, especially as privileged White American comic book creators.

So White asked Ennis, “Do you have any concern that you'll face similar scrutiny in writing about the Tuskegee airmen and their experiences?”

Ennis' response is so typically American White male privilege that it is hard to believe that he is originally from Northern Ireland:  “My attitude to that is that it's going to be what it's going to be; it's so far beyond my control that there's no point worrying about it. I'll write the best and most honest story I can, with appropriate attention to detail in terms of historical research. If you think I have no right to tell the story because I'm white, don't read it. If you don't think that and you're interested, give it a try.”

It is not that Black people do not want White people telling stories about Black people and African-American subject matter or featuring Black characters.  The complaint or grievance is that the same opportunity to produce such comic is, in large measure, not afforded to Black comic book creators.  Unless the story would be tailored to one of their characters, neither Marvel nor DC Comics would publish something like Dreaming Eagles produced by an African-American creative team.  In fact, it is unlikely that any of the major independents that publish creator-owned comic books would publish something like Dreaming Eagles by a team of Black creators.

How do I know that?  Well, they haven't...  A few times a year, Image Comics makes a big deal out of announcing its slate of upcoming creator-owned titles, and none are by African-American creative teams.  I think once, out of embarrassment, Image tossed in a token Negro title, which I have yet to see.  So AfterShock Comics is doing the same as the other publishers, and Garth Ennis is officially an American White male, willfully blind to his unearned White privilege.

So, onto the review...

Dreaming Eagles #1 (“We Cannot Consecrate”) opens in 1966, at night, outside “The Silver Pony” (a restaurant in New York City?).  The place is owned by a Black man, WWII veteran, Reggie Atkinson.  Tonight, he is thinking about his son, Lee, who is a budding activist in the 1960s Civil Rights movement.  Father and son don't agree on the movement, but tonight, Atkinson will finally tell Lee about his time as Lt. Reggie Atkinson, one of the first African-American fighter pilots in the United States Army Air Force in WWII.  And those first Black men had to prove a lot of White men wrong about a lot of things.

My diatribe to open this review aside, I like this first issue of Dreaming Eagles, which will be a six-issue miniseries.  The conflict between father and son is nothing new.  The old Black man versus the young brotha' conflict has popped up in much of the fiction and storytelling about the Black struggle for equality and dignity in the United States (most recently in the film, Lee Daniels' The Butler).  What I like is that Garth Ennis is depicting the father-son struggle as not being toxic, but instead, as a matter of perspective and worldview brought on by different life experiences.

Ennis is also blunt and to-the-point in stating the obstacles facing Black men in the U.S. military before and during WWII.  Ennis' storytelling has always been blunt and to-the-point which gives the drama and action in his stories the force of a series of jabs that keeps the readers always on his feet and engaged with the story.

If this comic book were published by DC Comics' Vertigo imprint, which published practically all of Ennis' work for about a decade, Simon Coleby would be the artist and this story would not look different.  He is not a fall-back choice for a name writer looking for as an artist.  Coleby gives each panel just the right amount of drama that is needed, from subdued to momentous.  He does not force a mood to pander to reader expectations, simply because he understands the build up to moments – immediately and for later chapters.

I think that this first issue is rather languid compared to what I expect to come in later issues, but I could be wrong.  My sense of expectation suggests that readers of Garth Ennis' war comics will want to read beyond the first issue.  However, I don't know that people who have enjoyed Ennis' work on comic books like Preacher and The Punisher will care for this.


[This comic book includes a five-page preview of the comic book , Replica #2, by Paul Jenkins and Andy Clarke.]

Reviewed by Leroy Douresseaux a.k.a. "I Reads You"

The text is copyright © 2016 Leroy Douresseaux. All Rights Reserved. Contact this blog for reprint and syndication rights and fees.


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