Incognegro Renaissance #1

by Batmanaruto on February 10, 2018

Welcome to our Weekend Warriors, where we do reviews in a similar way to how we do our Collective Consensus reviews. The staff do a review of one book, that we didn't get the chance to cover during the week. The book would be a one-shot, start of a new series or the start of a new arc, just so that anyone can jump into the book. The multiple reviews allows readers to get a wide range of opinions and the sense of how the book is.

Dark Horse solicitations: "After a black writer is found dead at a scandalous interracial party in 1920s New York, Harlem’s cub reporter Zane Pinchback is the only one determined to solve the murder. Zane must go “incognegro” for the first time—using his light appearance to pass as a white man—to find the true killer, in this prequel miniseries to the critically acclaimed Vertigo graphic novel, now available in a special new 10th Anniversary Edition.
With a cryptic manuscript as his only clue, and a mysterious and beautiful woman as the murder’s only witness, Zane finds himself on the hunt through the dark and dangerous streets of “roaring twenties” Harlem in search for justice.
A page-turning thriller of racial divide, Incognegro: Renaissance explores segregation, secrets, and self-image as our race-bending protagonist penetrates a world where he feels stranger than ever before."

Writer: Mat Johnson
Artist: Warren Pleece
Publisher: Dark Horse Comics


As I’ve mentioned in last week’s reviews I’m a big fan of Dark Horse giving Karen Berger her own imprint to spotlight more mature themed books. This week we get the second entry under Berger Books, Incognegro Renaissance #1. I was unaware this was sequel to a graphic novel published 10 years ago until I got to the adverts after reading this issue. You don’t need to have read it to enjoy this new series.

This is essentially a murder mystery set in Harlem in I believe the 1920s. The writer transports you right into that world and period with an excellent grasp on the vocabulary used then as well as the racial atmosphere of the 20s. It really makes me glad I was not born in that period. We still have a lot of work to do but the racism during that time even makes me uncomfortable just reading it.

The black and white artwork is very clean and clear. Much of the issue takes place at a party in a house and this is where the artist shines. He has definitely done his research and depicts the house décor and dress of the characters just how I’d imagine it would be back then.

I’ll not only be grabbing future issues to see how this mystery unfolds but I’ll also be ordering the original graphic novel to learn more about these characters.

At an integrated Midtown party, an unsuccessful black author gets a little too drunk and a little too honest about the cultural appropriation perpetrated by one of the white hosts with his new Harlem-based novel. He ends up dead in a bathtub. 

Our protagonist, cub reporter Zane Pinchback, is urged to take advantage of his proximity to the color line and pass as white so that he can dispute the suicide narrative the white partygoers feed to the police.

I haven't read Mat Johnson and Warren Pleece's original Incognegro graphic novel, but this fascinating prequel introduction has put both the GN and the new series right at the top of my "must-read" list. As a newcomer, I may have missed some clever connections to the original Incognegro, but there's more than enough quality storytelling here to enthrall me.

I admire Mr. Pleece's expressive if slightly understated art. It's effective at both telling the story and conveying the characters' emotions, and the conscious choice to go black and white works well. I just wish more of the art utilized a full range of light and dark tones the way the initial outdoor scene did.

Mat Johnson's script is a real tour-de-force performance. It's drenched in social commentary, but that commentary serves a lot of purposes and achieves a lot of goals. It illuminates the Jazz Age setting, it reveals the characters, and it invites the reader to link this century-old tale to contemporary race relations. Beyond all of these things, Mr. Johnson's script also delivers a fascinating murder mystery, and I definitely want to see how it plays out.

Incognegro Renaissance #1 is intriguing, stylish, and achingly relevant. It delighted me and I highly recommend it.

As someone who doesn't usually read indie comics, I always like when I do give them a chance as they are really interesting and entertaining. This issue is no different and was also very socially conscious. It takes place in the past and explores how it was to be a black person in the past as they are trying to integrate in a predominantly white soceity. This is shown by the conversations between characters such as Zane and Xavier and with Zane and the rest of the characters. The book continues to focus on Zane's lighter skin and this is used as a narrative devicefor him to gauge what the characters really feel, whether that is his friends or those around him. The latter half of the book then reveals that Xavier has been murdered and turns from a social commentary to a murder mystery and this for me is when the book becomes a must read for me. This is only improved due to the artist's apt black and white pencils.

Those are all our reviews of Incognegro Renaissance #1! The general consensus from our writers' is massively positive. Our reviews speak highly of not only the writing but the art. What do you think? Tell us below, on Facebook, or on Twitter!!!


Our Score:


A Look Inside