Black Badge: 1-4

Written by Matt Kindt
Line Art by Tyler Jenkins
Color Art by Hilary Jenkins
Lettered by Jim Campbell
Published by BOOM! Studios

Yesterday I read the hauntingly ignorant Bill Maher blog about how comics are meaningless and how Stan Lee inspired us all to... go watch a movie. Then I re-read Black Badge issues one through three to prop myself up in preparation for the fourth issue coming out this week. I say this to remind myself that Bill Maher is consistently a troll looking for attention and his opinion literally means nothing... oh, and Kindt comics fly so consistently under the radar that it's despicable more people don't take notice.

But that's why I'm here. Allow me to seek refuge in discussing what makes comics so kick ass for a brief moment or two with Black Badge as the case-in-point.

Comics are like music to me, just as songs draw me in to find the good in the mundane so is also that I am able to find something within a comic that is pure and good for the simple and literal definition of being good. No song exists that is bad from moment start to moment finish just as no comic is undeserving of attention from an audience in need of its intended message. I'm willing to go up against anyone who finds that observation absurd. Point being:  I enjoy most all music for what it is, and the same is true for comics. I enjoy the medium that comics utilize to convey the message it is able to present while using a simple, yet unique and obscure, platform of panel art. Sometimes creators will take this medium and push it beyond any predetermined boundaries.

Matt Kindt is a creator I find most captivating in the way his stories are told and the vivid attention to detail he has for manipulating the imagination of his reader. His stories always have a foundation of such elaborate visual planning that he has it illustrated in ways not too dissimilar of a treasure map. Black Badge is no exception to this trend as he has Tyler and Hilary Jenkins illustrate us a labeled aerial view of select scenes from the story. Also included in this unique approach to comic illustrations and storytelling is his breakdown of a character's gear and uniform, something I've always appreciated from Matt. I find myself painting the page with my eyes, back and forth, up and down, studying the layout and design of the character. This makes the reader's imagination consider so many unsaid possibilities given the inventory of devices listed on that previously mentioned illustration.

I've enjoyed Kindt comics for a while now. Grass Kings is probably in my top ten ongoings of the past several years, and last year's Dept H was one of my favorite mini-series of pretty much... ever. Matt has a certain sizzle to his storytelling that lets his readers know exactly what is going on every step of the way but manages to sneak in unexpected surprises and simple yet modest amounts of social commentary. The subtlety is where Matt's charm lies. He knows how to tell a story with purpose and with meaning without mimicking your Sunday School teacher.

Black Badge is Matt's latest endeavor. He has teamed with Tyler and Hilary Jenkins to tell a story of rebellion and loyalty through the eyes of something similar to a boy scout. Our team of protagonists includes Kenny, Cliff, Mutz, and Willy; four adolescents making their way toward something largely unknown, but along the way they seek and destroy questionable missions to earn progress toward the larger goal of achieving black badge excellence among peers and authorities alike. This rat-pack of four juveniles challenge the boundaries of loyalty, rebellion, cooperation, tolerance, and the mindful attention to brotherhood. It gives the reader, if engaged, a chance to consider their own intent of any such patron of honor.

So often we are told to fall in line for the sake of conformity. We base our significance on how little we stray from the expected obedience of our actions, or maybe it is vice versa if rebellion is more your thing. This comic seems to explore these elements of self-identification by telling the story of four adolescents as they go on adventurous missions to obtain the status coveted by all who desire recognition. In the end, it is the bond of friendship that tests the pre-ordained expectation of obedience to the cause so that the directive is lost and hope is now being found on a more personal level. Issues one through three illustrate the story as blind tests of faith by these young scouts, but something is rumbling in the distance. Something seems unsettling and an unraveling of order is unmistakable as you read between the panels.

The characters in Black Badge are written as somewhat ambivalent toward their own intent making the story arc from issue to issue seamless and mesmerizing. Seeing one question the actions of the group only to fall on deaf ears could easily translate to a foreshadowing of trouble ahead. But by the end of the fourth issue, you will see that maybe the questioning of blind obedience has laid enough of a rebellious seed to cause what is about to happen.

We all share this life together, collectively populating the same planet. The simplest form of tolerance is to respect the situation of someone you cannot seem to understand. Borders, wages, ethnic background, social construct, or even our individual interpretation of free-will all contribute to our differences. In those diverse differences, the foundation of what makes us all the same is that anyone's interpretation of greater-good factors down to interpersonal relations. Without those around us whom we call family, we have lost essentially any meaning in the very existence we have been given. To live is to mingle, and to mingle is to bear family, and to bear family is to share love. Black Badge is that story transcending any specific reason to not fall out of line for the well-being of another. This is a story taking shape that feels like an act of rebellion against an unjust authority so that brotherhood and friendship is constant no matter the cost. Considering the current state of everything America these days, I find this ironic I pull this theme from this comic.. or maybe it is just me who translates this from it.

This is a terribly fun story. It is something unlike anything else on the stands right now and Matt Kindt is, in my opinion, the most underrated creator of our time. Black Badge 1 - 3 easily get 8's out of 10's from me and that changes only in the upward direction for issue number 4. Black Badge 4 is a solid 9/10. Go pick this one up at your local shop this week, as this one comes as a highly recommend from me.