Exo isn’t the 1st African Science fiction graphic novel I have read (being the editor of Comexposed in Zimbabwe and a fan of Nigerian comics ) and I must say I was pleasantly surprised by many aspects of the story and artwork that were truly youneek and encouraging on many levels. Before I begin, here is a warning to those who haven’t read the comic book: this blog post contains spoilers. So if you are yet to read chapter one which went online a little over a month ago for free STOP HERE.
One of the most subtle devices used by the writer and artists behind Exo to drive the story which I also hope they maintain in subsequent chapters is the positive representation of Africa as a sophisticated technological hub. Lagoon City is in Africa and though there are evident traces or “odes” to the problems faced by Africans such as poverty and crime, the book still features a strong aspirational sentiment of where the continent could be in the near future. I mostly like the panel which featured an establishing shot of the lagoon city airport. One of the captions read “This is lagoon city the most distinguished destination in Nigeria and arguably on the continent of Africa”. The artwork of Sunkanmi Akinboye and Raphael Kazeem really shines through on this page as they put together a great image of a beautiful colorful and advanced airport which gives a back ground to the type of technology which can be seen in Lagoon city. Its easier for the reader to accept the events that are seen in the opening of the book at this stage since the setting of the story is clearly a highly modernized, hi-tech city. For those of you who have read my previous articles on African comic books, you will realize that this is something I constantly encourage and I rant about the lack of aspiration, modernization and sophistication in African comics today.
From the onset The artwork of the book is clearly of a very high standard and the result can only be due to an incredible amount of team work by Ayodele Dream Maker Elegba, Sunkanmi Akinboye and Raphael Kazeem. Be that as it may the aspect I would like to talk about next is actually non visual. I was fascinated by the drama created between the characters early in the story. Strong tension exists between Wale and his father Tunde due to his fathers absence and selfish work ethic. This strains their relationship quickly works well to expose Wale’s Athletic side which his father does not acknowledge as much as his academic or intellectual side which his father makes use of and encourages. Clearly this is a device which the author uses later to create the Super hero that emerges from these father-son dynamics. Lola who happens to be Wale’s mother clearly does not encourage Wale to be spiteful against his father despite his absence. Her need to “hold the family together” makes later tragedies in the story more believable while justifying Wales drastic decisions to leave the city. I enjoyed the Irony and drama among the Family members. Tundes brother who is also a scientist and military man has a strained relationship with his brother based on the clandestine nature of the work they are doing together and his questionable agenda.
Lets face it Wale has a very original justification for being a bad-ass. Hes a karate student! Very simple and very straight to the point unlike Daredevil who was trained by the mysterious Stick or Bruce Wayne who had to travel across the world and asia in particular to become a martial arts master Wale just went to school for it. For me that’s a breath of fresh air because I think the “ninja training” that super heroes tend to go through is now quite tired consider this : Wolverine- trained by ninjas, Daredevil Trained by ninjas, Bruce Wayne , technically trained by ninjas , Blade, also trained by secret ninjas, Iron fist….. I think you get my point . Thank you Wale for getting Formal training which which certifies you’re a good martial artist.
I enjoyed the books artwork and writing and already its a contender for one of my favorite African sci-fi stories but with that there are some areas that I believe left me seeking clarity. For example what does the younger brother’s character contribute to the drama in the family? I felt as though his position and views on the fathers work and opinion of the family loss were not revealed and I couldn’t help but wonder where he fits in. Wale’s family appears to be affluent and he seems well provided for however he is identified as a hacker by his mother. Why does he hack? For financial gain or to further some philosophical cause through the internet. Is he and his family aware that hacking is a crime? With that said I enjoyed the first chapter and will be writing more about some implied aspects of the story and also what I believe are very strong African Metaphors in the book. I hope you enjoyed reading it as much as I did and you also pre-order.