COMMENT: Valentino’s Black Emissary

Jim Valentino’s latest project, Emissary, sounds like it could generate some interesting message board debates that would likely become a regular feature on Fanboy Rampage…if it lasts long enough.

This May, Image’s Shadowline imprint releases a book that poses the question of how the real world we live in would react to an actual super-being. And what if he were black?

Would he have been accepted, beloved by the world at large? Or would he have been feared, rejected, even hated? Would his near omnipotence cause governments to tremble or would they attempt to use him to advance their own agendas? Would his mere existence send religious leaders into turmoil? Or renew their faith in God’s master plan? Or would it do BOTH?

Emissary will examine the effects of a super-being on politics, religion and the common man in a way never before seen in comics. Created and co-plotted by Jim Valentino and written by J. R. Rand with art by Juan E. Ferreyra and Clayton Brown, Emissary will be available for preordering from PREVIEWS in March. It will be cover-featured on the March PREVIEWS for May product with 5-page previews at www.imagecomics.com and in ShadowHawk #11 and Intimidators #5, with the first issue set to hit stores May 2006.

Considering the heated debates about race that have taken place on the Image message boards over the past six months or so, including at least one that mentioned Valentino’s original ShadowHawk and drew him into the discussion, my curiousity is certainly piqued. The creative team is a big question mark for me, though, as I only know Valentino’s work from his co-plotting of the current ShadowHawk series, which I recently dropped, and the intriguing but ill-fated Blacklight, which died after only 2 issues; and Rand and Ferreyra are the guys who did the well-reviewed but recently cancelled Small Gods series, of which I read the first TPB and thought was solid.

The cover for #2 worries me a bit, though, evoking unfortunate comparisons to Ex Machina, which treads similar ground, minus the minority lead character. It could be a feint, considering the open-ended questions in the Press Release, but it could also simply be lazy plotting, going for the easy emotional hook of a 9/11 reference.

Having just read Superman: Birthright for the first time (enjoyed it; B+), and still having both JLA #1 and JLA: Classified #16 fresh in mind — each of which covered aspects of Emissary‘s proposed plot — makes me wonder how deeply Valentino and company will dig into the questions they’re planning to raise (and address?) with this series. I also wonder how committed Valentino is to publishing it and sticking to its stated premise, considering how many changes his relaunch of ShadowHawk has already gone through in its first year, in a vain attempt to gain traction in a market that’s simply not interested in indie superheros; never mind minority superheroes.

I’ll definitely check it out, though. And hopefully, once my schedule clears up a bit after NY Comic-Con, I’ll have a chance to hit Valentino up for an interview before its release.

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