April 15, 2008


I've said before that I think you can make almost any subject into an interesting comic book. But I doubt I would've thought of this approach for diabetes.

Here's what AN INVITED THREAT is about:

The Healthy Aboriginal Network: Non-profit promotion of health, literacy & wellnessIt’s about a young boy and what he likes to eat more than anything--junk food. His family exercises and they eat together at the table, but they don’t always have time to prepare a healthy meal, so they rely on prepared foods. And it’s about someone who has the ability to change the dietary habits of his people--the local store manager. The story was focus group tested with youth and health professionals for its ability to convey the idea of what is, and what is not, healthy food.Year End PDF Catch-Up Reviews Page–2007 EditionAn Invited Threat is a diabetes “Public Service Announcement” (PSA) comic aimed at the Aboriginal communities of North America and, like its predecessor Darkness Calls (a suicide prevention comic) it is quite good. DC was a bit more subtle in its storytelling, but Threat is powerful in its message and not too preachy (again, a bit more than DC, but still not bad). The three-member family that writer/artist Steven Keewatin Sanderson focuses the story on go through a series of visions that show them the consequences of their dietary choices in a way that makes it personal for each person. When the mother gets a look at her future son and how the father/town general store manager learns his particular lesson elevate the book to well above forgettable--which most Public Service Announcements are. There are some parts I disliked--the look the menace in the mothers vision was hard for me to take seriously, especially knowing how well the creator can write the subtler parts of his stories.

I think An Invited Threat, Darkness Calls, and the third book in the series On the Turn, a gambling addiction comic book are all very good and deserver a wide readership. I don't know much about Steve Sanderson, but I hope we hear more from him soon.
Rob's review:  Dennis, Diane, and Ricky are a middle-class Aboriginal family on a reserve in central Canada. They're thoroughly modern. Dad owns and operates a convenience store. Mom works on a business proposal with a computer and cellphone. Son stares blankly at the TV and absorbs too many commercials.

They attend a tribal meeting where a diabetes expert raises the issue of eating better. She notes that Dennis's store sells unhealthy food. He feels singled out and put upon.

As they leave the meeting, a man they don't know suggests they need to look at the issue from a fresh perspective. They decide to walk home even though it's beginning to snow. As the snowfall increases, they're separated and each has a vision.

Ricky finds himself in a cartoon world of sugary junk-food mascots where everyone urges him to eat. Diane finds herself in an operating room with a buzz saw-wielding monster who wants to amputate her legs. Dennis finds himself in a traditional village where the hunters unaccountably bring rotten meat.

The strong points

  • The comic really hits the message home. I wouldn't call this a PSA, since it's a full-fledged story with characters and plot. It's an issue-oriented work of fiction, not a documentary.

  • Steve Sanderson's writing and art are getting more assured, and this is only his second comic that I know of. He's definitely a rising star and one to watch. He may be the best Native comic-book artist since Ryan Huna Smith.

  • There are no obvious mistakes or stereotypes. The characters are regular people who live in a house with windows and furniture, wear t-shirts and baseball caps, and eat pizza. Even the mysterious Indian wears a fleece-lined jacket over a flannel shirt.

  • A few caveats

  • The story doesn't have a specific setting. It doesn't mention a reserve or a province; you can't even be sure it's set in Canada. Diane mentions going to Toronto, but the traditional village has a Pacific Northwest look. So where is the family supposed to be: halfway between these widely separated locations?

  • The computer-generated coloring is still too dark and artificial-looking. The cool tones work better for the dream sequences than for the reality-based scenes, which could be warmer.

  • Dennis's segment and the ending feel a little rushed. Sanderson clearly enjoyed doing the killer-surgeon segment the most.

  • Conclusion

    Despite these minor complaints, this is a fine Native comic. It goes straight to my list of recommended reading. Keep an eye on the Healthy Aboriginal Network and Steve Sanderson, because they're doing great things.

    1 comment:

    Wendy said...

    Steve visited my school today. He held the kids' interest for an hour and 10 minutes. Of course, that includes the time he showed two dvds of his work: A Journey of Healing and Darkness Calls.