The indie graphic novel Black Mumba glorifies a city losing its identity, appeasing the baser senses and nursing a festered underbelly, yet somehow managing to surprise and never lose its true spirit to survive against insurmountable odds. The complete anthology has two protagonists – the weathered cops Dev and Beri – who encounter cases/situations that reveal the dirt and beauty Mumbai churns in its womb. Ram Venkatesan’s short stories have been wonderfully brought to life by some of India’s best illustrators in their unique art styles, and I can’t wait for the next Comic Con where I may purchase a physical copy of the book and get it signed from all the creative souls involved with the project. The black and white world is so gorgeously created that I couldn’t help but compare it with that of Sin City. Such a visual treat. The team (comprising Ram V, Roshan, Kishore Mohan, Devmalya Pramanik and Aditya Bidikar) is set to launch a Kickstarter campaign in May, so you know when and where to show your support (love).
Just a breakdown of the four comics in the anthology Black Mumba –
A Wonderful World – The story begins with a cop’s evocative recounting of the past, of happier times, and how crime and hatred had broken it down.
Rats In The Dark – A really thoughtful story where cops investigate the mysterious disappearance of a rat-killer, a smart lad who enrolled himself into a social-studies program, but was still doing the lowly job for extra cash. Particularly loved the abrupt change in illustration style for when the narrative shifts track from the cops’ perspective to the lad’s.
Dead Rain– In this story our cop comes across a mannequin stitched out of real human body parts, and the “crime” shakes him to such an extent that he wonders if anything he’s done is making a difference, or if he’s just meant to do his job? Specially loved the panel where the cop is looking at his reflection on a shattered mirror, contemplating.
The Witch Of Boria House – This story explores love and heartbreak, for the person and also for the city of Mumbai. It is also the only comic where a well-known part of Mumbai is beautifully illustrated (the Queen’s necklace/Marine Drive) – the other stories carry sketches of one or two important locations, but none as detailed as this. Maybe this was the author’s attempt to show readers a Mumbai they were familiar with, while in the earlier stories he explored the parts and themes of Mumbai not many people (non-Mumbaikars) know about.
What I found particularly interesting was that every story title was followed by a random photograph on the very next page. The first one has a chained cycle, the last one has a murder of crows – and once you’ve gone through the entire story you learn that they are not just any random pictures but held a very significant meaning to the story that followed.
I used to follow Roshan’s Facebook page for updates regarding this project, and I had set certain expectations from the same. The complete package is so good that it somehow makes my expectations feel very mediocre. The bar will be set higher the next time around.
Black Mumba will release later this year. You want to keep an eye out on this one, trust me.