Writer: Mark Waid
Artist: JG Jones
Sometimes, timing is everything. You can’t help to feel that Strange Fruit #1 picked a hell of a time to come out. With everything that has been happening including the South Carolina shootings, the debate over the Confederate flag, and racial tensions, this book , like its Stranger, drops in out of nowhere.
Mark Waid’s story takes place in the late 1920’s amidst the great floods of Mississippi. It explores the conflicts with class and race as citizens deal with how to handle the floods. The White citizens of the town know that they need help in containing the flood, when a Black engineer shows up with ideas and recommendations of how to deal with it. Of course, White Southerners, aren’t too happy taking sound reasoning from an educated Black man and they let him know it. The remark that stands out, is “too many niggers ‘round here wearin’ suits and not enough fillin’ sandbags.” telling readers what those Southerners would rather see happen. The story itself reflects the time period and in many ways reflects today’s climate as well. This includes what to do with a man named Sonny who is accused of stealing. Unsurprisingly enough, some of the White citizens turn their attention to attempting to arrest and lynch Sonny as opposed to focusing on the disaster at hand. At this point, the story almost seems straightforward as everyone becomes sufficiently distracted. The swerve kicks in when Sonny escapes and while being chased by the lynch mob he is saved by an extraordinary stranger. What the stranger does and what you see at the last page is a bit mind blowing. That final panel is a conversation piece given recent events, which makes this book’s timely release just that much more meaningful.
JG Jones work on this book is beautiful. The art is very detailed in such a way it’s almost hard to imagine that this is just an 20+ page comic. JG Jones finds a way to elicit emotions from the characters to a point that, if you close your eyes, you can visualize this going on. The colors he uses for the sky and the surroundings really gives the story a sense of urgency as the floods are hitting The Great Delta.
To sum up, when you look at the overall story, there is a comparison we can see with this story as it mirrors real life right now. There is a great disaster going on. Those in power, even when getting adequate help instead of utilizing the help, would rather lay blame on others rather than look in the mirror. Also, they allow themselves to be distracted by lesser matters, than focusing on the impending and obvious doom that approaches. This book in its own way is similar to Southern Bastards in that the story content about life in some parts of America are clearly defined in black and white and has not changed despite new rules and generations coming along. The commentary alone is worth the price of purchase.
I cannot recommend this book enough.
4.5 Provocative Thoughts out of 5