Blackhand Ironhead is the latest release between Panel Syndicate and Image Comics for September 23, 2020. Headed by comic artist David Lopez, and his colorist Nayoung Kim bring the series stateside, with help from script tutor David Munoz, logo artist Cris Castan, and translations by Stephen Blanford.
Blackhand Ironhead – What A Time For a Collection
Blackhand Ironhead physically collects at a time of important relevance. This series is what TV Tropes calls a Capepunk, a series about the prevalence with superheroes in a realistic manner. Realistic, in this case, refers to the age-old question from Watchmen “who watches the Watchmen [police].” Because people with some form of power can easily let it go to their heads, the current Ironhead, Alexia Ross’s father, for example, is a respected superhero and runs a corporate empire. But he is heavily image-obsessed and even suggests his daughter take over the company in an impractical outfit that she doesn’t even fit in. Even then, he wants to leave Alexia a better world than what it was before a heart condition claims him.
Unfortunately, it turns out the old Ironhead had a few skeletons in the closet. One of which comes in the form of Alexia’s older half-sister, the current Black Hand. The original Black Hand was supposedly a supervillain who had a fling with Charles Ross. But the only reason she was thrown in jail was being a threat to Charles’ reputation. All without a lawyer or due process.
That reflects a particularly bad reality, especially for people of color. Readers of Blackhand Ironhead are quickly becoming aware of some of the morally reprehensible things done by notable people. Athletes, pro wrestlers, police, even people in the comics industry, all of which involved in some form of abuse scandals. If these people are the highest authority or what to aspire towards, does this give them the power to do as they want? Or is it an excuse to justify their actions? These questions serve as the basis for a story of significant importance.
As writer and artist, Lopez crafts Blackhand Ironhead as he sees fit. The younger characters like Ironhead and Blackhand not only look youthful, but their lack of greater detail make them expressive. A good number of the older characters like Charles and Titan, however, have the traditional designs of square-jaws. But this design makes them look both old, stiff, and not a lot of room for expression. Unless they get angry, something Nayoung Kim shows with both red and black on Titan’s face. The only exception to that role is Arthur Watson, whose high energy fills him with life and expression.
A number of objects come with surprising detail within Blackhand Ironhead. Some of the supervillain weaponry look positively whacky, including an Oscar Meyer car with giant ears. Against the rotoscoped or simple architecture, the whimsy is a nice distraction from the seriousness—all without feeling obligatory.
Blackhand Ironhead: A Look at Superheroes
At the end of the day, Blackhand Ironhead isn’t simply a critique of superheroes like The Boys. It’s about how heroism is about responsibility, not entitlement. No matter how many people criticize superheroes, there is still a need for them in bleak times. But that doesn’t mean that their sacrifices and efforts should make them above it all. Because when service and reputation matter more than helping others, that’s abusing karma to avoid responsibility.
What do you all think? Is this series just another attempt at Watchmen? Or do the themes matter now more than ever? Leave your thoughts in the comments.