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Comic Review: ‘Kid Code: Channel Zero’

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kidcode1Okay, so I’m a middle-aged white woman. My relationship to hip-hop music and culture is, um, weak. I picked up Kid Code: Channel Zero out of curiosity, mainly, and to stretch my reading tendencies. The popping color and style of the art sealed the deal.

By Damian Duffy, Illustrated by John Jennings, Illustrated by Stacey Robinson

Kid Code is the first in what promises to be a long line of Black Kirby/Tan Lee productions. Kid Code: Channel Zero is a rollicking, cosmic, time-traveling adventure, fusing classic hip-hop culture and outlandish sci-fi fantasy in this alternate universe to create the ultimate mash-up. Everything’s a remix! And Kid Code and his comrades must fight against The Power, who eons ago sampled the first sounds made from the God MC and created the Dark Mix (a version of the universe that was never intended). Now there’s a race against and for time throughout the universe to assemble The Everlasting Cosmic Mixtape–nine tracks that can re-assemble the God Sample and help set things back on course.

Read the first eight pages as a sample pdf here.

Kid Code is an indie comic that retools the classic superhero good vs. evil conflict through the music and culture of hip-hop. The story starts with a remix of Genesis–this is the cosmological background for the God MC’s uni-verse, the story of the first freestyle. The uni-verse is corrupted by The Ultimate Hater, and now Knights of the Infinite Digging are tracking him (now known as The Power) down.

I can’t even begin to extrapolate the many layers of allusions embedded in the comic. There are geek-tastic comic book references, like the mock author names of Black Kirby and Tan Lee. Pop culture references to Doctor Who and Bride of Frankenstein. There are theological references like using the structure of Genesis or re-defining Akashic records. In fact, the cosmological references span many different cultures. There are even literary references to the likes of T.S. Eliot’s “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock.” Then there’s the hip-hop allusions. I’m sure I only caught a small percentage, like that protagonist Kid Code sports the high-top fade of Kid from Kid ‘n’ Play or that lyrics are used in dialogue–I noticed “samples” from Snap’s “The Power”, “The Humpty Dance,” and Run-DMC’s “It’s Tricky.” In fact, in the same way that Kid Code is attempting to gather up lost shards of corrupted rhymes to rebuild The Everlasting Cosmic Mixtape, the audience might do a similar thing of identifying and gathering up songs that are being mixed into the narrative. Are there nine of these peppering the 40 pages of the book? I’m not educated enough in hip-hop to know. But I think the idea of structuring the comic to be built of sampled hip-hop songs is brilliant.

So the comic is incredibly smart, but it’s also a great deal of fun. It’s witty, sassy, and having a grand time adapting comic tropes to a hip-hop format. For instance, The Power is a classic villain, but with a wide grill that reads “CREAM” (Cash Rules Everything Around Me according to the Wu-Tang).  However, for all the fun it’s having, it also has an emotional core and a universal message of strength in the face of greed, corruption, consumerism, and struggle.

The illustrations are electric. They remind me of street chalk art–exaggerated lines with popping bright colors. The depictions of the story are likewise full of energy and vision. The illustration of The Power is that of a giant mouth, grinning and all teeth. His henchmen have t.v. heads. The uni-verse floats atop giant speakers. This art is like nothing I’ve ever seen in a comic book before, but I’d love to see more of it.

In short, I really dug Kid Code: Channel Zero. I have great adoration for mash-ups of high and popular cultures, bridging gaps between people of different interests, cultures, religions, and creeds. Kid Code does this with intelligence, wit, and artistic panache. Truly, I recommend checking this one out. Perhaps we can convince Rosarium to publish another one.




Author: Erin Perry

I'm a high school English teacher specializing in AP Literature and Film Analysis. I'm interested in most things geeky, including superheroes, vampires, zombies, teen culture, postmodern philosophy, pop culture analysis, and combinations of the aforementioned. Follow me on Twitter @eriuperry.

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