At the New York Comic Con 2012, I met fellow comic writer Jon Chang. He gave me a copy of all three issues of his graphic novel series Black Powder, Red Earth. Looking at the stark black covers with the faded images was something that took me back a little. I didn’t know what to make of it at first. I’m always on the look out for stories that try to bring something new to the comic medium. I can’t really compare the book to anything out there. This is a deeply rich, realistic, original depiction of the private military contractors in the middle east. The art on the book is wonderfully textured to match the detailed script that instantly transported me into that gritty world.
Black Powder, Red Earth by Jon Chang, Kane Smith and Josh Taylor takes place in a near future Iraq, in 2019. The story follows the actions of a group of private military contractors operating in the area of New Basrah, Basran. Their actions primarily include the capturing of high-value targets, negotiations with government officials, and information gathering while tackling the everyday life of a private military contractor. The dialogue is very naturalistic and the two main characters feel like real people. That’s not something you can usually get when reading the larger-than-life characters you usually read about in graphic novels. Don’t go into this book expecting something like The Expendables or The A-Team. I’m not saying there aren’t some intense scenes, but this almost feels like a documentary graphic novel. This story feels so realistic, it feels like these creators were either actual military contractors or at least had intense cooperation from real contractors. Either way, it feels like a large amount of research was given to make this series feel closer to reality than any other military set comic I’ve ever read.
We’re shown a wide range of operations undertaken by our two main characters as well as the political and technical aspects behind how everything happens behind the scenes. The art is done in a gritty style that matches the setting and mood perfectly. The environments are photo realistic in detail. Everything about the book makes you believe in what you’re experiencing. It can be a bit dense and overwhelming to take in everything they present. There is a massive amount of information given to the reader and it can be a bit hard to follow if you’re not into military thrillers like I am. If you’re a fan of movies like Zero Dark Thirty and TV shows like Homeland, this might be a great fix for you. It’s not a comic series for everyone, but it’s definitely a comic for people that think comics are only for kids. Any fan of military thrillers in the vein of Tom Clancy would also love this. It’s a comic for those with a higher attention span.
You can find out more about Black Powder, Red Earth on this website here. The book is available on Amazon.com as well.
There’s even a facebook page and role playing game based on the series.