If you’ve read more than two of my pieces about comic books, then you know that I love the way superhero stories engage with real-world issues of justice, often reimagining systems that we know to be flawed.
Few comics do that better than the recent series Black, from Black Mask Studios. Black follows a lot tropes familiar to super-hero fans with one fantastic twist: only black people have superpowers. The comic gives us a chance to examine power structures in the US, while still giving us a great superhero tale.
I wrote about it for the site Christ & Pop Culture, comparing the imaginative project of Black to the reimagining Jesus did in his parables:
These acts of revision may be common to superhero fiction, but they aren’t exclusive to the genre. In fact, much of Jesus’ teaching illustrates the same transformation. We see this clearly in Jesus’ parables, such as the parable of the mustard seed (Matthew 13, Mark 4, and Luke 13) or the parable of the lost sheep (Matthew 18 and Luke 15). In these stories, Jesus takes an image from his audience’s everyday life and uses it to describe a kingdom in which a seemingly insignificant seed or lamb are objects of monumental importance.
This ethos is particularly pronounced in the message that begins Jesus’ ministry: the Sermon on the Mount. To an audience of second-class citizens, whose rights are regulated by the occupying Roman Empire, who themselves denigrate Samaritans as racial half-castes, kingdoms and servants were immediately familiar concepts, not the abstract metaphors they are to modern readers. Jesus’ Jewish listeners regularly encountered Roman soldiers and dignitaries who wielded the power of the state against the weak and the dispossessed. They understood kingdom to be a matter of those with laws and weapons subjecting those without.