Strange Fruit #2 Review

Written by: J.G. Jones and Mark Waid

Art by: J.G. Jones

Publisher: BOOM!

The first issue of Strange Fruit landed as one of the most surprising comics of the year. What felt like quite a grounded and beautifully presented historical comic about racism suddenly became a Sci-Fi story with a black character gifted with Superman level strength landing in Southern Klan controlled territory. It was a real kick-in-the-teeth style opening which left me with a ton of questions. While the second issue has a few script problems, it is none the less a powerful, beautiful comic that demands attention.

I was curious as to how this issue would deal with the Sci-Fi concepts introduced in the last issue, and it seems Jones and Waid are intent to scale back a lot of this stuff for the more grounded, real world issues. Really I think this works well, as it’s what this comics lends itself well to. Jones indescribably gorgeous art is packed with detail and charm, it makes the world come alive and really does feel like stepping back in time. Even when the panels are packed with huge crowds, not a single detail is lost and it manages to avoid feeling claustrophobic. The stories on their own too feel very interesting with the racial backdrop creating a great amount of interesting tension. We see different battles for power in different classes of people, from a young man being abused by the police to an educated man fighting prejudice, these stories feature a great deal of conflict and tension which make them interesting in their own right. However, while these stories work well on their own, when it comes to the overall narrative they cloud the main story and make it seem a little unfocused. For a lot of this issue I was having trouble remembering which characters were involved with which conflict (especially given the long gaps between issues) and at times distracted a little from the main story about the alien. By the end however, they do come together quite well and end on a strong note that hints at the coming conflict in the last two issues. When the mini-series concludes, it’ll probably feel really nicely paced, though on it’s on the issue feels a little unfocused.

While I’ve stated this issue scales back a lot of the sci-fi stuff, whenever it does work it’s way back in, it’s done very subtly which I feel is the best approach. We get a lot of the mysterious alien’s backstory and origins told simply through memory flashbacks as he is triggered by the real world conflict in front of him. It’s a brilliant way of both building his character while keeping him a mystery, and also tying his story and motivations to that of the struggling workers. Speaking of which, these moments also end up being some of the comic’s most powerful. The stranger’s first appearance this issue gives the reader a pause and shock much like the inhabitants of the town as he towers above everyone else, embodying so much raw power (conflicting greatly with the oppressed nature of many of the other black characters), and any time he gets involved or takes action it feels striking and impact. Seeing the fight against racism has never felt so thrilling, the Jailbreak scene ends up being a really inspiring and flat out awesome moment with a perfect level of build up and rising tension as we’re exposed to hard to watch police brutality before justice can finally be enforced.

Overall, Strange Fruit is one of the most visually beautiful and surprising comics to come out this year. Jones and Waid have breathed life into this world and transport the reader back to an uncomfortable, yet important time in history. While the script itself can at times feel a little unfocused and overstuffed, the sheer level of detail and heart poured into this comic more than make it worth your time. Strange Fruit is powerful, stunning and magnificent to behold.