There couldn’t be a better example of the reimagining of classic science fiction elements into diverse multicultural-themed new stories than Shobo and Kambadais’s Buckhead. This comic shows that the reinvention of science fiction even reaches into the middle school. There have been many recent great adult African- and African-American based science fiction books, and now Buckhead enters the genre. Buckhead’s story has so many allusions to well-known science fiction movies that I couldn’t keep up—I wrote them down! I won’t mention them here, though. You’ll have fun finding them and pointing them out to your pre-teens – because this comic is fun for both them and you. Boom! Studios does it again!
Tobe is a software modder and the new kid at school, and everything is weird. NO, REALLY WEIRD. It’s not just that his dad disappeared before their move from Nigeria to the US, other kids mispronounce his name, and no one knows where Nigeria is. He saw a house on the way to school that his new friend Josue didn’t, everyone has the same tattoo on their neck, and other people keep freezing in place! Good thing he’s met a few good friends—they’ll all need to work together to figure out why there’s a huge AI video game in the basement of the school, a huge 3D printer and vat of goop in the auditorium, and dark men in black outside Tobe’s house at midnight! And his mom disappears at weird times—what’s her involvement in all this?
Artist George Kambadais’s lines and coloring are sharp and vivid and express the digital tech theme central to the story. The asymmetrical borders and panels create constant movement, though the pacing is a little awkward. Your middle-schoolers won’t notice. The characters’ joking and kidding with each other even in the face of world conquest make them likable, and little touches like Mel’s mouth stuffed full of fries in the lunchroom and the digitally rendered dog Shadow make it easy to love them. Plus, the dog wasn’t hurt, so good on you, Shobo! Letterer Jim Campbell’s work makes the eeriness of the evil creature Ewon plain. I did wonder why the computer lab had the old-style CRT monitors, if the school is in the US.
There is a funny reoccurring joke about not touching things – It made me think of various science fiction movies where this is a trope. Remember kids, don’t touch things that you don’t know about! Don’t click the .exe file, don’t enter the door with the skull and crossbones…in short, DON’T.
Buckhead is a definite buy for ages 7 to 13. The trade paperback compiles issues 1-5 and is a complete story which also explores the Yoruba culture of Nigeria. Add it to your middle school library and teach a social studies lesson around it!
By Shobo Coker
Art by George Kambadais
BOOM! Box, 2022
NFNT Age Recommendation: Middle Grade (7-11)