I have become addicted to Nnedi Okorafor’s new comic series from Dark Horse, LaGuardia. I know exactly when the next issue is coming out and I’ve even discovered the exact spot where it will be on my display in my neighborhood comics store. It’s been a long time since I felt this way about comic books.
When I was a kid, I mostly read comics when I went to Stanton’s grocery store in Alvin with my mother. We did most of our shopping at Baker’s store in Friendswood, but about once a month we’d drive over to Alvin because Stanton’s had more items.
Mother would shop and I’d plant myself by the comic book stand and read as many as I could while she got groceries. The store never objected.
I wasn’t very systematic about my reading. As I recall, I read a lot of Archie comics, which, on reflection, probably introduced me to a lot of sexist conditioning even beyond that of school and church and society as a whole. Though in some ways reading Archie was like exploring an alien world, since nothing about it had anything to do with my life.
We rarely bought comics, so I didn’t leave behind a stack of them for my mother to throw out before the word came that they could be valuable. And I always read way more books than comics.
In college and the years soon after I discovered the alternative comics by the likes of Gilbert Shelton, Trina Robbins, and many others. I read a few mainstream comics, mostly ones recommended by a friend who obsessed over certain artists.
But I’ve never been a major comics enthusiast and the current obsession with making movies out of comics based on the canon set out by the publishers is not encouraging me to read a lot of the mass market ones, even despite the fact that some very gifted writers now work on them from time to time. Even when the art and writing are good, and sometimes they’re very good, the worldbuilding behind the stories often leaves me cold.
However, I like mixing art with words. I’ve always been a devotee of the funnies section of the newspaper, replacing it in recent years with online comics like Breaking Cat News. Picture and dialogue tell a story in a different way from just written words, and it works well for many things.
The graphic novels and graphic memoirs of recent years are another great form of communication. Alison Bechdel’s Fun Home and Marjane Satrapi’s Persepolis are two of the best. Those stories that would not have been as powerful without the combination of pictures and words.
LaGuardia is on that level, though the format is more basic comic book than graphic novel. It’s a tale about aliens that deals with abusive immigration actions and intrusive airport inspections that will feel all too familiar to people these days.
The aliens in LaGuardia made their first contact in Nigeria, though many of them have traveled to the U.S. (through the infamous airport), as have many people from Nigeria and other parts of Africa.
The main human character is Future Chukwuebuka, a Nigerian American doctor who is pregnant when we first meet her in the security line at LaGuardia. Her grandmother, an immigration lawyer, is also a major part of the story as is Prof. Citizen Nwabara, who teaches agriculture in Lagos. Among the aliens is a plant named LetMe Live.
This is near future science fiction, with self-driving cars along with the aliens, and hints of serious political trouble in both Nigeria and the U.S. (and probably much of the rest of the world). It’s a world that’s recognizable to us, but just different enough to make it easy to believe in the aliens.
And that’s all I’m going to tell you. Three issues are out now. The next one is due March 6. I can’t wait.