Racism and America have had a long relationship, to say the very least. One place that some Americans say is the perfect example of this is in the Southern states, especially during the early 20th century. Mat Johnson is all too familiar with this as evidenced in his comic “Incognegro: A Graphic Mystery.” Along with artist Warren Pleece, he has crafted one excellent story.
Zane Pinchback, a Harlem based reporter who writes under the pseudonym “Incognegro” because he looks white enough to pass as a white person, writes a column that exposes white people who lynch black people during the early 20th century. One day when he finds out that his brother is arrested for a murder he goes to Mississippi to prove his innocence and to not get his brother or himself lynched.
Johnson does an excellent job of portraying how the South was like during that period without resorting to stereotypes. These characters feel real. They come across as someone you can pass on the street in real life.
One of the strong suits is that the events that unfold aren’t forced and are well thought out. There are some things in the comic that you know people aren’t stupid enough to fall for and Johnson does the right thing by having certain characters figure them out in creative ways.
The only real downside is that there are some situations that Zane could’ve easily have been killed. Yes, it is stated in the beginning that he is lucky, but there does come a certain point where even somebody is too lucky.
The art is well done. While simplistic in nature, it gets to the heart of the story and has a ton of charm. Pleece understands that this story doesn’t need flashy art to work, it just needs it to show us the readers the reality of what is going on. In a way, it’s in perfect harmony with the writing.
“Incognegro: A Graphic Mystery” has a wonderfully original story that combines great writing and art to tell the tale. It has the right amount of everything to not overburden itself and to not sound political or preachy.
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