While I’ve been doing my best to flip back and forth between contemporary comics and classic comics in the war genre, I’ve noticed that most of the issues that I have been reading have been predominantly white, either in terms of characters and creators. This doesn’t diminish the stories that I have read nor the experiences of those who wrote them (because after all, a number of classic war comics writers did fight in World War II). But I have been curious as to whether or not there were stories by and about people of color. As it stands, race has only come up as an issue in the middle of Doug Murray’s run on The ‘Nam, which were solid issues. So back in 2021, when Boom! Studios published the six-issue miniseries Dark Blood by LaToya Morgan (writer for Shameless and The Walking Dead), I immediately put it on my pull list.
I wasn’t disappointed. The story centers around Avery Aldridge, a fighter pilot who served over Europe in World War II and who is now working at a diner in Alabama in 1955. Like many African American veterans of that war, he has come back to a hostile environment where the racist White people around him insist on asserting their power. Right off the bat, in fact, we see him confronted in an alley by a man who had been harassing him at the diner. However, when the confrontation begins to turn violent Avery starts exhibiting strange powers.
What follows is a story told through flashbacks to the war, where Avery was shot down by the Luftwaffe and eventually taken captive and tortured by Nazis, as well as to a time after the war when he saw a doctor who gave him an extraordinary treatment for some pain that very likely gave him the powers. Avery spends much of the title on the run from local authorities, having to sacrifice his relationship with his wife and young daughter as a result.
There are definite shades of the Marvel character Isaiah Bradley in here, especially considering how he gained powers through a secret government experiment that was designed to produce superheroes. But the “experiment on Black people without their consent or knowledge” story point isn’t germaine to Marvel because that actually did happen in Tuskeegee throughtout much of the mid-20th Century. So Morgan is pulling from both actual U.S. history and the history of comics to show us a more grounded story that isn’t afraid to pull punches while also not being gratuitous in its violence.
I think that, in addition to compelling characters, kept me going through the story. Walt Barna’s art also helped; he gives us a bit of modern superhero mixed in with classic style that I would love to see more of. In fact, I’d like to see a sequel to this book, although I’m not sure if that’s on the way.
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