Papa Midnite

Author: Mat Johnson
Artist: Tony Atkins
Titan Books
RRP 7.99
ISBN 1 84576 265 7
Available 23 June 2006

Some believe him only a legend, an old tale told by slaves in days gone by. But the man called Papa Midnite is more than a myth - he is a magus, steeped in the mysticism of ancient Africa. For close to three centuries, he has been cursed to walk the earth, amid blood and destruction, waiting to repay a debt to people he once coldly betrayed. Tonight, his wait is over...

Led on a New York walkabout by a ghost from his distant past, Papa Midnite's vision quest leads him from Harlem to a forgotten slave burial ground in lower Manhattan - and back through time itself, to the days of colonial New York when as a young mystic he incited rebellion and provoked the gods, only to pay the ultimate price. The secrets of John Constantine's greatest enemies are revealed in a story that combines the brutality of slavery, the wonder of magic and finally, the power of the past.

Papa Midnite is an interesting exploration of man's inhumanity to his fellow man. Over the course of this graphic novel we get a small glimpse into how racist the USA was in an age not that far from our own. But this collection is not just about racial history it's also a tale of revenge and origins.

Mat Johnson's writing goes around the houses a bit, but gets there in the end, and on reflection the long windedness of it makes the pay off all the more satisfying. The main narrative treads on fairly rocky ground, and Johnson manages to skirt the boundaries of taste while still getting his message across. Tony Atkins art is chilling in places. His images of Afro-Americans hanging from trees is a powerful depiction - a part of American history that its citizens should never be allowed to forget.

A worthy addition to the Hellblazer stable.

Nick Smithson

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