NOLA #1 – Post-Katrina Revenge, Served Not-So Cold
Posted November 7, 2009on:
Here’s how Boom!’s NOLA #1 opens: Black girl walks up to two white cops at a police barricade in post-Katrina New Orleans. I guess we’re getting right to it, aren’t we?
Here’s a little something most people don’t realize about the South; most kids my age (I’m 25) can just barely remember a time when we were still essentially segregated. In my town, we had the CITY public school system and the COUNTY public school system. The city school system was largely poor and largely black. The county school system was mostly white, if not mostly better off financially. The two systems didn’t fully integrate until less than twenty years ago, in 1992, and this was in North Carolina. There are still extremely rural parts of the South, especially in the Deep South & gulf coast that are just as segregated today as they were in the fifties – though luckily, those pockets are few and far between. The dark underbelly of racism in the South is a part of my heritage I’m not especially proud of, but the memory of residual segregation in the eighties and nineties is something a select group of twentysomething Southern kids remembers, and we are unique in that we lived, at a very young age, through those last dregs of insitutionalized hatred knowing it was wrong.
But even as the kids were all getting along, having tolerance preached to us as part of the curriculum, there were parents who would still yank their babies right out of the public schools when they found out a black woman was teaching them. We stood, and still stand, in an odd gap. Most of our grandparents (not all, mind you), and in some cases, our parents still harbor a big chunk of racial fear -perhaps out of guilt or maybe just bad habit – and we are in the odd position of having grown up in a world where it was not only wrong, but inconceivable that we’d treat another person any different based on something as arbitrary as skin color.
I can’t speak to the experiences of my darker skinned counterparts in those years, but I’d venture a guess that perhaps their parents were weary of my grandparents’ generation, maybe even my parents, and as children maybe they couldn’t figure out why that was any more than I could figure out the racially charged fear I’d sometimes hear from my older or more rural relatives. Of course, once we hit middle and high school, the prejudices and racial fears and outright racism of the older generations became horribly transparent, and little girls that held hands on the playground in kindergarten regarded each other with wary eyes, and still, I think we all felt like something about this whole mess just wasn’t quite right. NOLA speaks exactly to this odd, first post-integration generation, the one that knows it’s all wrong, but can’t quite figure out how on earth we’re supposed to relate with the long history of racism in the South looming just behind us. I mean, we didn’t even know that it would occur to anyone to hate someone for the color of their skin until our teachers told us that people used to. We were the first generation of Southern kids to have no real concept of what it was like “before.”
So there’s that.
Race relations in the South today are anything but sunshine and rainbows, and NOLA doesn’t pull any punches, though it stops short of delving into slurs or retreads of old grudges. The titular Nola’s best friends are her Mama and her white girlfriend, Cinda, but this is a revenge story, and good lord, does Nola have some SERIOUS revenge to exact from a certain Mercedes-driving rich white bastard.
We come to realize by the end of issue that Nola herself is just as ravaged as the city she’s named after; the violence she lives through three weeks prior to Katrina’s landfall is horrific, much the same way the hurricane was for NOLA itself. But Nola and New Orleans have a hell of a lot of fight left in them, even in the wake of mass destruction.
Pierluigi Cothran’s dialogue is spot on, just southern enough without venturing into the unreadable, random apostrophe-ridden territory so many authors slip into when voicing Southerners. Cothran and creator Chris Gorak have spun up a fascinating cast of characters who are quintessentially Southern, but more importantly, New Orleanian. Personal favorite? Nola & Mama’s cab driver, Mister Jeffries, who is gaga in love with Mama and shrugs off a mugging and getting grazed in the ear by a bullet like it wasn’t nuthin’. Damien Couceiro rocks the pencils with Juan Manuel Tumburus on inks, giving the present time sections of the issue a post-apocalyptic aesthetic (and anyone who saw New Orleans in the direct wake of Katrina would agree that this is accurate) and the flashbacks a heavy, sticky, lazy southern summer tinge.
If I had some bourbon around here, that’s what I’d be drinking with NOLA. Preview the first five pages below, and pick it up on November 18th. We’ve got ourselves another ass-kicking lady, girls, but damn – does she have a bone to pick.