Is’nana the Were-Spider One Shot
Writer: Greg Anderson-Elysée
Artists: David Brame, Walter Ostlie
Colourists: Kat Aldrich, Lee Milewski
Letterer: AndWorld Design
Publisher: Webway Comics
Review by Josh Rose
My earliest memories of John Henry have to do with the Johnny Cash song, and I remember him being mentioned when talking about the superhero Steel aka John Henry Irons who was a construction worker before taking up Superman’s “S” Sheild after his death. But I honestly didn’t know much about the African-American folkhero. Is’nana the Were-Spider was born out of a desire for more representation in the world of comics, and with its close connection to Anansi the God of Stories it only makes sense that Is’nana would eventually meet such an American hero. The Is’nana the Were-Spider One Shot sees readers introduced to two major figures in African-American folklore: John Henry and Rawhead or Bloody Bones.
Greg Anderson-Elysée has always been passionate about representation. He’s used mythology from Haitian and West Africa cultures, and now he’s bringing American Folktales into the mix in the Is’nana the Were-Spider One Shot. I really like how the John Henry portions of this issue are silent except for the captions which quote the Ballad of John Henry.
Is’nana the Were-Spider has always been a horror comic at its center, so combining it with the story of Rawhead — a boogeyman story meant to frighten children into behaving — could not be more perfect. I like how Anderson-Elysée tells the Rawhead story from the perspective of a child. Readers are more inclined to empathize with a kid because they tend to be seen as more honest and sensitive to the supernatural in comparison to an adult. He even throws in a plot twist I didn’t see coming.
David Brame’s art on the Rawhead story does a lot to sell the horror angle of the story, and big house, especially from the eyes of a child. He does a great job not only showing the fear in Isaiah’s face when first told the story of Rawhead, but also the creepiness of the man telling the story. But the best part is how Brame angles the panels to increase the intensity of the story to give it an otherworldly feeling. Kat Aldrich’s and Lee Milewski’s colours help add to the horror element with their use of reds and oranges.
Walter Ostlie’s art on the John Henry story is split into two parts. The first is simply an introduction to the classic tale and performs to show Henry as a hero. The second portion juxtaposes the lyrics from the folksong by placing it against a setting that folklorists familiar with John Henry would not recognize as part of his mythology, but is clearly related. His use of browns makes it feel like the story is a Wild West story, even when John Henry is in another world.
The Verdict: Buy It!
The Is’nana the Were-Spider One Shot is a neat one-shot that continues the theme of black mythology that was started in earlier volumes of Is’nana the Were-Spider. If you’re interested in Black folklore and want to see more representation in comics this is the comic for you. Best part: you don’t need to be familiar with John Henry, Rawhead, or Is’nana and Anansi to enjoy this.