Harriet Tubman Demon Slayer. w. David Crownson. a. Courtland L. Ellis and others. Kingwood Comics. 252 pp. $59.99
The subject of slavery has been depicted and processed in many ways, from critical analysis to cathartic expression. This new comics series takes the reader on a mystical journey led by none other than Harriet Tubman (1823-1913), the famed leader of the Underground Railroad (1850-1860) which led enslaved people to freedom in America. Creator and writer David Crownson gives his story just the right bite, which makes sense for this mashup of genres.
Meet Harriet Tubman, Demon Slayer. Crownson goes all out casting Tubman in the role of a superhero ninja freedom fighter who must do battle with whatever monsters slave owners can throw at her: vampires, werewolves, demons, you name it. This trade paperback is a graphic novel collecting the previous six issues to this series. In this story, we follow Tubman as she is helping a family to freedom. Crownson has done a great job with character development. I was quickly engaged in the plight of the Edgefield family: the young girl Vanessa; her parents Caesar and Catherine; and her brother, Nathan. Tubman, like a mysterious angel, suddenly appears in their lives as they are attempting to flee from slavery. The right amount of action, humor, horror and fantasy ensues.
I was immediately intrigued by this book. The cover art got my attention and the artwork throughout, led by Courtland L. Ellis, kept me turning pages. The book begins with a photograph of Tubman and a quote from her: “Never wound a snake; kill it.” That sets the tone very nicely. From what I know, Tubman appears to have been a very driven, reserved and no-nonsense person. That’s the way that Crownson depicts her. She has a job to do and she does it with speed and precision. She knows exactly how to drop a vampire or werewolf in seconds flat. Out comes the magic sword or the wooden stake and that’s that. It’s cathartic to see how swiftly Tubman takes care of all the villains. In comics, we often find some righteous justice and this comic delivers on that promise.
To take a historical figure and then put that person into a fictionalized universe is one of the most satisfying things you can do as a writer. No doubt, Crownson is having a great time with his superhero version of Harriet Tubman. On the creative side, it’s great fun. And you can also call it a sacred privilege. Crownson celebrates and honors Tubman with respect and joyful energy, fully aware of the painful and sensitive subject; fully aware of hope and healing. There’s no record of this anywhere but Crownson includes a character, Chip, a young white man, as Tubman’s adopted son. It’s just part of the story, an uplifting use of creative license, and something that Tubman would probably give a wink to and approve of. I’m confident that she’d approve of this whole audacious comic book series and enjoy it.
‘The Twilight Zone’ Hits the Ground Running
The Twilight Zone
The Twilight Zone reboot hits the ground running by finding a way back into what made the original series work and trying to avoid adding and tweaking more to it and messing up a good thing. Just one more thing tacked on can be like playing a game of Jenga where you tear down an otherwise neatly put together structure. Without spoiling anything, if there is one criticism to the show, it is that it needs to keep to this golden rule. For the most part, it does that and that bodes well for what it shaping up to being a lively and compelling return to a classic. This series comes to you from CBS All Access and is hosted by Jordan Peele.
What would Rod Serling think of viewing Twilight Zone on a phone?
I will fast forward to the second episode as it is an example of how this series is finding its feet. We immediately start with a fresh look at something not directly referencing an iconic episode as is done in the first episode. We’re at a comedy club, which is an ideal Twilight Zone setting if ever there was one: in the darkness, the audience as well as the performer are looking for some catharsis. Our main character, comedian Samir (Kumail Nanjiani), is stuck on speaking truth to power but he’s not connecting with his audience. Then he has a talk with a veteran comedian J.C. (Tracy Morgan). The main bit of advice: Don’t try to make points; Go for the laughs by keeping it personal–but beware that once you take from your life, it’s out there and you can’t get it back. Samir goes against his better judgement and makes a detour that gets him the laughs.
Jordan Peele channeling Rod Serling
“The Comedian” is not a direct reference to any particular TZ episode, not like Richard Matheson’s monumental airplane nightmare. But it is a sly tip of the hat to Rod Serling nonetheless, just a sweet little Easter Egg (there are others, as in names used for some characters) as it refers back to one of Serling’s landmark teleplays prior to TZ. It is that sort of deep dive that will send a nice chill of recognition for diehard fans. The scirpt’s writer, Alex Rubins, would certainly be aware of that. So, we’ve got a character in crisis: Samir has made some devil’s bargain. All is set up for the chilling fun and it is delivered. In this case, a little editing somewhere in the middle to tighten things up would have been ideal. As for the end, it is spot on.
Twilight Zone on CBS All Access
I think the challenge for this reboot is satisfying an audience that is happy to take things further, like a kid in a candy store who risks a stomach ache. The first episode, “Nightmare at 30,000 Feet,” makes that mistake by pushing a bit beyond what would have been a perfect ending. And the second episode makes that mistake by packing it bit more background that drags an otherwise excellent story. There’s a very good reason that Serling and the rest of his writers concluded that the sweet spot for the show was the original half hour format. With streaming, the restrictions are lifted and so the creative team (a producing team that includes Glen Morgan, Greg Yaitanes, Simon Kinberg, and Jordan Peele) needs to be mindful of being disciplined storytellers. That said, my guess is that you can expect this reboot to indulge in providing viewers with a deluxe director’s cut excess. That could be very good news for some fans. Then again, who knows, maybe adjustments will be made and we’ll get this reboot refined to perfection.
As someone who is putting together a graphic novel that is directly related to The Twilight Zone, I am particularly intrigued by this reboot. I see the minor blemishes too. But, overall, this is a series that has its ducks in a row and I feel confident that Rod Serling, given a chance to process where we are today, would grin and give the show his blessing.
Filed under CBS All Acess, Comics, Rod Serling, Television, The Twilight Zone
Tagged as CBS All Access, comics, Entertainment, Fantasy, Fiction, graphic novels, Horror, Media, Movies, Pop Culture, Publishing, Rod Serling, Science Fiction, Social Commentary, Television, The Twilight Zone