Wednesday Comic Woundup: Lincoln Washington: Free Man by Ben Marra

Lincoln Washington: Free Man #1 by Ben Marra

This comic is the story of Lincoln Washington. He’s a former slave, trying to make a new life for himself as a sustenance farmer during Reconstruction. It doesn’t go well.

I need to tell you that this is an indie comic. That descriptor gets used a lot these days, but much of the time it’s not really accurate. Books like Saga, and Prophet, and Chew are fantastic. But the only real “indie” thing about those books is that they are creator-owned. The distribution, the marketing, the everything else, is pretty much the same as Spider-Man or Batman comics.

Lincoln Washington doesn’t have that problem. You want to buy this book? You order it from the guy who made it. Or hope that your store happened to share a booth with him at a con and bought a few copies. That’s it. It’s not available digitally, either legally or illegally. In an age where everything is available all the time after a few taps on your keyboard, it’s a refreshing change.

It’s also extremely indie in tone. It’s not just that it’s not a superhero book. It’s that it’s got a confidence not often seen in mainstream comics. It’s brash. It’s sloppy. And It’s over the top. Crazy over the top. The first fight scene involves our hero remembering his last day as a slave. I won’t give the scene away, but it involves him breaking his former owner over his knee, and then ripping his spine out through his butthole, Mortal Kombat style.

I guess I did give it away. Whoops.

But it’s not just that it’s violent. Crossed is violent, but it’s still supposed to appeal to a mainstream horror fan. I’m not sure who this is supposed to appeal to, other than hardcore indie comic book fans like me, and Frederick Douglas cosplayers.

Some select quotes:

“You Are A Negress From The Abyss Sent To Tempt Me”

and, “Then I Will Rip His Guts From His Bowels As He Dies”

and my particular favourite, “My Loins Ache For Your Negro Manhood”

I’m not sure why Marra isn’t selling t-shirts. He could make a fortune.

I’m having a hard time pinning down the art style Marra is going for here. There’s a Geoff Darrow-ish rigidity to it that lends itself well to the fairly grave tone of the book. But there are quite a few action scenes, and that very same rigidity seems to hamper Marra when it comes to storytelling. Some of the pages are very stiff, though I suspect that that’s intentional. At the end of the day, it’s a unique style that seems to match up to the story it’s trying to tell perfectly, and that’s really all that matters.

This comic is so full of utter batshittery that you’d think it would be hard to take seriously. But you do, because it’s obvious that Marra takes it seriously.

While variations of many of the terrible, terrible things described in this book happened not too long ago, one doesn’t feel that Marra is preaching so much as reminding us that we need to make sure it doesn’t happen again.

And best of all? It’s a hell of a lot of fun.

Rating: A-

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