Black Betty probably shouldn’t work – but it does!
On the surface, Black Betty #8 appears to be a perfect genre mash up of two things I personally truly adore – Rockabilly style, and Buffy the Vampire Slayer. And just like Buffy, it shouldn’t work – but it does. It’s a ridiculous concept handled seriously, and while it doesn’t bring anything new to the table (just yet), it is still an immensely enjoyable read.
Now don’t get me wrong, the premise isn’t exactly stale – a girl fights supernatural beings, with the ability to ‘absorb’ the more dangerous ones, leaving their mark as a new tattoo somewhere on her body. It’s a nice hook into a familiar story. All the while sporting a neat rockabilly style, and a stoic Rosie-The-Riveter vibe (look it up if you’ve never heard of her). There are stark comparisons to TV shows like Supernatural and other Monster-of-the-Week shows, and that is not a bad thing at all.
Black Betty vs Siren
Issue #8 shows Black Betty battling a Siren, her winged children, and a town of hypnotised citizens. There is one child who is immune to the Sirens song, a young deaf boy named Noah, who Betty protects and communicates with via text messages. There is a gnarly violent ending which wraps up the ‘Musical Interlude’ arc in a satisfying way. It’s good stuff, not ground-breaking, but still a solid read with solid art. Lets look into it a bit deeper…
Never coming across as trying too hard to be cool with the kids, Black Bettys style is her own. Writer Shawn Gabborin has yet to truly lean into the rockabilly angle; there’s no slang or greaser stylings to the way Betty walks and talks – she is just a genuine person. That’s the other point, the book never gets preachy about having a larger female hero at the centre. In the first issue of the series, Betty is drinking in a bar with some rough looking dudes, and agrees to handle their towns pressing monster issue.
There’s no ‘but she’s a girl’ angle to the interactions, rather Betty is just a tough bad ass in her own right. Her gender or taste in clothing does not inform her character at all. I liked it – without going down a political rabbit hole, it was a breath of fresh air. Unlike Faith from Valiant Comics, who is a similar main character from some angles. Black Betty succeeds in not being blatantly politically correct. It’s a nice change, in my opinion.
While I enjoyed this approach to the character initially, it eventually left the book with a bland taste. Betty is a blank mask, you could replace her visually with any number of action heroes, and the story would remain the same. In all honesty, it’s rather boring. Give her some sort of personality traits. I understand that she is a new character with a mysterious past, but after catching up on the series Black Betty comes across as kind of a monotonous, lacklustre character.
Even though the character has a particularly tragic backstory, she still comes across as a basic action hero cypher. The good stuff is in the pacing of the story – it reads very well, and hits all the right visual beats. Artist Rafael Dantas uses bold lines and basic poses in what seems to be an attempt to capture traditional pin up tattoo style, like Sailor Jerry or Cap Coleman, but for me it comes off as kind of distracting. Either embrace it fully, or don’t try to push that connection.
Perhaps we can look forward to this changing in future issues. Not so much promoting the female hero angle, but more the rock and roll stylings? Either way, I can’t say that I’m hooked, but I am far from unimpressed. Black Betty is simple, fun, comic book storytelling. Check it out.
How did we rate Black Betty #8? 5 Sodas
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Living in Brisbane, Australia with his wife and cats.
Jimmy enjoys (in no particular order) comics, video games, rockabilly music, ice hockey, whiskey, a good narrative, and grilled cheese sandwiches.