A Jazz-Age Noir That Takes a Look at Racism and Racial Identity
Set during the Harlem Renaissance, writer Mat Johnson (Hellblazer: Papa Midnite, Right State) weaves a tale of racism, murder, and intrigue in Incognegro: Renaissance. The first issue sets up what promises to be an engrossing mystery. The art by Warren Pleece is crisp and draws the reader into the roaring twenties.
What elevates Incognegro: Renaissance above a typical noir mystery is Johnson’s witty dialogue and the examination of race issues. The first issue looks at cultural appropriation in the form of Arna Van Horn, a white author who exploits rising interest in black culture by examining Harlem like he was on safari.
Protagonist Zane Pinchback is a young, light-skinned African-American reporter recently moved to New York from Mississippi. When a black writer is found dead at an interracial party celebrating the release of Van Horn’s new book, Zane finds that the police are more worried about keeping the white guests from being upset than they are about the fact that a man has died. Despite indications that this was not a suicide, the cops are not willing to investigate. Zane ends up doing something he’d sworn not to: go “incognegro” (pass as a white man), in order to get to the bottom of things. Though he considers the idea of “passing” a betrayal of who he is, he knows it will be easier to investigate if people think he is white.
As sad as it is to say, race relations 100 years after the setting of this story are so little improved that this book feels timely. Stories that make us think and consider other points of view are the best stories, and if this first issue is any indication, this is one of those stories.
From the Publisher:
After a black writer is found dead at a scandalous interracial party in 1920s New York, Harlem’s cub reporter Zane Pinchback is the only one determined to solve the murder. Zane must go ”incognegro” for the first time–using his light appearance to pass as a white man–to find the true killer, in this prequel miniseries to the critically acclaimed Vertigo graphic novel, now available in a special new 10th Anniversary Edition.
With a cryptic manuscript as his only clue, and a mysterious and beautiful woman as the murder’s only witness, Zane finds himself on the hunt through the dark and dangerous streets of ”roaring twenties” Harlem in search for justice.
A page-turning thriller of racial divide, Incognegro: Renaissance explores segregation, secrets, and self-image as our race-bending protagonist penetrates a world where he feels stranger than ever before.