Mar 30, 2014

[REVIEW] The Hood: Change From Within Issue #1


 9/10 CHET BAKERS



Vigilantism.

It definitely has an appeal to many people's base instincts.  Their desire for justice and revenge.   This is evident by the success of TV shows and movies depicting various people who take matters -- and the law -- into their own hands and mete out punishment.  To right wrongs and make the world a better place.

It's a nice sentiment and one that plays on all the right emotional strings.

It's why we liked the show Dexter (before it went off the rails in that ridiculously absurd ending).  We had a guy who was only going after those who were guilty, who had done really bad things.  We, of course, had the benefit of knowing 100% those he was going after were guilty.  With only one or two exceptions, those that Dexter Morgan killed in his time on the show, were horrible people. Pedophiles, child murderers, rapists, etc.  We had the benefit of being all knowing, all seeing as it pertained to their guilt, and so we were able to get behind a sociopathic, psychopathic serial killer because we knew that he was doing good, even if his methods were not.

The real world does not work that way, however, which is why shows like that are deceptive.  In the real world, we can't know that everyone we target is actually guilty.  When ex police officer Christopher Dorner went on a rampage and was killing police officers that he felt had betrayed him and who had done him wrong, there was a percentage of society that were cheering him on and drawing comparisons to the Jason Bourne character from the movies.  His saga tapped into a segment of society that already had a massive distrust of the police (and often for good reason) and so it was easy for them to completely and utterly agree with his motives and methods.

MORE AFTER THE BREAK




While not all police are bad people, there are sadly a large number of stories that come out every week it seems of police officers abusing the trust the people have put in them, and are shooting and beating suspects, and various innocent people.   This foments distrust and hatred of a group of people who are more times than not, good hard working and fair people.  Unfortunately, much like my faith of Christianity, it's the outrageous and negative members that gets the most publicity, and thus people think they are reflective of the whole.

And even when Dorner killed innocent people, his supporters ignored that because of the "greater good" that he was doing, in their eyes.  Sometimes you gotta break some eggs to make an omelette, and all of that. 

The love of vigilantes tends to stem from the powerless constantly being dumped on by those in power.  And that's a situation that's as old as time itself.   There will always be those who are disenfranchised by the ones above them, simply because it's possible.

And while many of us may wish that there would be a vigilante to come along and take out the trash, so to speak, whether it was a Batman or an Arrow or whatever, just as many of us, I imagine, also dream that they ARE the vigilante.  A real life Kick-Ass, that is pounding the streets and ridding their neighborhood of the criminal element that makes life miserable.

Which brings me to this new comic series "The Hood: A Change From Within".

I helped fund this on Kickstarter last year, and it's a 3 issue series created by Stephen Townsend that makes up a graphic novel about a young African American man whose brother is killed in gang crossfire, and his decision to become a vigilante and do something about the crime and death that pervades his neighborhood.

The book presents itself as sort of a conversation starter.  On the original Kickstarter page, Townsend wrote "This story probably presents more questions than answers but my hope is to encourage some lively debate and offer an alternative to the traditional super hero genre.".  I think that this is definitely one that should invite discussion, as it's a book that addresses a very real issue of inner city violence, and seeks to address the causes, and hopeful solutions.

Are things solved without eventually resorting to violence?  I've long been a fairly passive person when it comes to things such as protesting and whatnot.  I don't really care for violence, and would like to think that things can be achieved peacefully.  And yet there's another part of me that feels that this is a pipe dream.  That we NEED violence before true change will be delivered.  I mean, if someone knows that their enemy will never resort to violence and will simply protest them, well, is that really a deterrent to negative behavior?

If a big fortune 500 company is polluting a town's water supply and they know that at most they'll face a fine that is smaller than the interest they make in a few months, then what's to truly stop them from doing it in the future?  And if criminals in the inner city know they can terrorize their neighbors into refusing to fight back or call the police due to the ridiculous "Stop Snitching" mantra, then what do they really have to fear?  And what would make them decide to stop doing what they are doing?

These situations are what fuels the desire in many for some form of vigilante justice.  It's why there are so many supporters of Anonymous who have fought back with technology against those they deem as hurting the little guy.  Just recently they took down the website of the Albuquerque police department after a video came out of them shooting and killing a homeless man who was "illegally camping".


When we those that the Bible refer to as "the least of you" being systematically oppressed by not only those in power, but even those in your own community through violence, it fuels the desire for revenge and justice in many people.  I'm not immune to that feeling either, as I've said.  I'm non violent, and yet I feel angry at the violence I see in the area I live in.  I'm frustrated by the oppression that I've seen.

Is Vigilante justice okay?  Is it ever appropriate, or are there other options that should be used?  I think this is a book that may attempt to, if not completely answer it, at least address it and put the question into the discourse.  As Townsend himself writes about it, perhaps it provides more questions than answers, however raising questions is never really a bad thing.  As long as it provokes an honest discussion and attempt to search out the answers to those questions.

Also there's the issue of where the blame lies for that inner city violence.  There are those who would pin all the blame on the residents of those inner cities.  You often hear Republican politicians race baiting by throwing out code words in relation to violence in cities like Chicago, New York and Los Angeles, and saying that it's the fault of the African American people who live there.

There are others who place the blame on the economic policies of the United States government, the War on Drugs which has decimated the Black family structure by locking up so many of the fathers, in many cases for simple marijuana possession, which in turn handicaps them from getting future employment due to a drug related arrest and jail/prison time.

I think it's somewhere in between there.  I think the policies of this country has definitely had a hand in this, and in my opinion, intentionally so.  Not a conspiracy nut, but there's too much evidence to say that it wasn't done with that intention.   However there's also those in the community that have wreaked havoc and have not cared what they did and how they affected those around them.  And then, as I mentioned above, the whole lunacy behind the "Stop Snitching" movement that just encourages honest hard working people from reporting crime, just further exacerbates the situation.

Unfortunately these select people who are engaged in this type of genocidal behavior are singled out by those with an agenda and used to stereotype and stigmatize an entire race of people, which is abhorrent and unconscionable.  You would think it was not necessary to reinforce, but Black people are not a monolith.  One does not describe all.

And yet that's the mantra you hear from those decrying "Black on Black violence" and suggesting that Black people don't care about the violence in their own community, only about when a non Black person commits a crime against them.  I have already gone into that nonsense argument which you can read by clicking this link to that blog post I did.  Suffice to say there are plenty of people on the streets of Oakland, Chicago, New York, etc that are fighting to end inner city violence, and to suggest that no African Americans are upset over it or doing something about it, is ridiculous.

The artwork on this was very good, in my opinion.  I've only recently gotten back into reading comics, and so I'm finding out quickly that the art styles vary wildly from title to title, and in some cases from issue to issue of the same title.  I was telling someone before about reading the Wolverine origin series awhile back called, simply, "Logan", how it was incredible to me how Logan changed in appearance from issue to issue, and in some case, from page to page.  One panel he looked like a 15 year old boy, and then in the very next page he looked to be in his mid to late 20's.   That is just unacceptable and indefensible, in my opinion.  I can't fathom why that would be when it's the same artist.  I realize it's not the same artist for an entire book's run, and sometimes the art styles are drastically different, but in the same issue? 

The art style here, though (Eric Koda on the pencils/inking and Nate Johnson on the colors) was very good and I think appropriate for the story that is being told.  The writing is very well done, and I found myself immediately caught up in the tale of Anton and felt his heartache when his brother was killed senselessly.

I look forward to reading Book 2 of this, and seeing how this story develops and see how things play out.  Book 1 was essentially the origin story of The Hood, and shows how he got to the point where he's embraced his choice of becoming a vigilante.  I look forward to seeing how Anton handles his newfound career choice.

I encourage you all to check this out when it becomes available.  I will update this review when the 1st book becomes available to purchase.

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