Comic Book Review: Beats of War by Etienne Kubwabo

So this is my first comic book review and I’m still working out how exactly I’m going to do these reviews so please bear with me. I think I’ll start with a little bit about the author. Etienne Kubwabo, who gave us Scotland’s first black superhero, is originally from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, who moved to Scotland, he attended West College Scotland, when it was still Clydebank College, having attended the college myself I was inspired by how the media course he was on helped him on his journey to become a filmmaker, DJ and most relevant to what we are talking about today, a comic book writer. 

Next, a little bit about the comic, it follows the main character DJ ET who flees his home planet which is being ravaged by robot invaders, he comes to earth, specifically to Glasgow, where he discovers music and fights crime. Having done a little research before buying a copy of the comic, Etienne said to the BBC that the experiences in the comic book are reflective of his own experiences in coming to Glasgow as a refugee, both positive and negative and how Glasgow has become his home. If you are interested in learning more about Etienne, I have recently interviewed him and you can check that out here.

Okay, let’s talk about the comic, firstly it’s so great to see Scotland in a comic book, and with recognisable features as well. It’s great to see superheroes right on your doorstep, so to speak. New York has about a thousand superheroes so it’s about time Glasgow had one too.

Issue #1
I feel that sometimes the dialogue felt a little strained but I think even for people who’ve lived in Scotland all their lives, capturing the distinct style and cadence of Glasgow patter can be difficult. I sure couldn’t do it, and Etienne does it well overall. Despite that I do think that Etienne handles humour really well, for example when he announces in response to where he’s been living, he responds ‘Another Planet’ and it’s very tongue in cheek and funny. 

I really liked the subplot with ET’s blood and its qualities which make it very valuable. I won’t elaborate too much as I don’t want to spoil anything but it adds additional risks and potential to the story. The big thing though, is the hook at the end, he’s barely on this planet and he’s made enemies, powerful enemies that hearken back to Glasgow’s own violent history in the 1920 to 30s. 

The action was awesome too, Ben Wilsonham, the artist has incredible skill. He really brings the scene to life with careful use of colour and shadow, everything is really richly drawn and stylised. Plenty of personality just coming off the page. 

Overall I give issue 1 a 5/5 and would recommend that you get yourself a copy because it’s fun, well written and has a really interesting story that borrows lightly from other comic books while presenting a genuinely cool and engaging hero. The conclusion sets itself up perfectly for the next issue, and the overarching story including ET’s people and his origins are ripe to be explored. 

Issue #2
The first thing that hits me in issue #2 is the artwork, the cover especially is so well designed and evocative. You get a real flavour for the story and the comic as a whole just from the cover. I really like the colour choice, things aren’t eye poppingly bright or cartoonised, instead they have a slightly more muted colour palate which makes it feel more grounded.

I liked that the story picked backed up with something that fleshed out ET’s past prior to coming to earth and then it brought us back to the conclusion of the events that ended the last issue.

I really like the atmosphere and style of the comics, it is stylised but still feels more real and authentic than say Batman’s Gotham, which is just frankly unbelievable in terms of people actually staying there.

I still feel like the dialogue can be a little clunky at times, but I like the Scotticisms which are scattered throughout.

I feel that we really see ET come into his own as a hero in this issue, we obviously saw him fighting in the previous issue and save his love interest but that felt instinctive and unavoidable, whereas in this issue he is called out, and he knows it’s a trap but he still leaps into action because he is a true hero.

A hero is nothing without the people in their lives, and it is great to see ET’s support system coming into place, and in a way that feels authentic and natural. Speaking of which, another side to a truly great superhero comic, is a villian and in this issue we see the gang element grow and become a real threat to ET.

To return to the artwork again, it is really beautiful, this comic is legitimately interesting, but the solid design style really brings it all together. It’s particularly cool that it’s not just the climactic scenes which are impressive, but every panel has depth and attention to detail that really add to the overall comic.

So Issue #2 ends on an interesting note, and I am personally super excited for what’s coming next. I feel like for all that and more this issue earn a 5/5.

You can purchase the comic book by clicking here, and you can find Etienne on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram

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