Comics Are Trying to Break Your Heart #155 by Drew Barth


How often can we link the exploration of the ancient with contemporary modes of entertainment? It’s on this field that we find a new series, Buckhead by Shobo, George Kambadais, and Jim Campbell. Placed at the intersection of archaeology, video games, African mythology, and conspiracies, Buckhead takes a small town and builds up a story being trapped in unexpected ways.

Toba Adekunle’s dad disappeared on an archaeological trip—zapped into an artifact in a hidden temple and hasn’t been seen since. Toba’s mom, a fellow archaeologist, moved them from Nigeria to the small town of Buckhead in Washington state. Toba is, of course, the new kid at his school and is already tired of the smallness of his new town. But while the town itself is small in population, it’s city-sized in its mysteries. Everyone Toba has met has a small tattoo just below the base of their neck. His new friend can’t see the large abandoned building on their walk to school. At night, people simply stand and stare at nothing while in their homes. The janitor’s closet in his new school has a massive computer with a game based on African myths—and also a character that looks a lot like his disappeared dad.

Between the town of Buckhead and the strange video game Toba found in his school, the theme of being trapped runs through this story. Even the cover has a slow incursion of chains coming for our main characters. But Shobo, Kambadias, and Campbell are subtle through this first issue. It’s like stepping into a trap that you’re too deep in to before you notice the door closing behind you. And the trap itself goes beyond the physical. Toba is coming from Nigeria to a small town in another country where all but three other people mispronounce. But he’s still much too young to go off on his own, so he has to stay in a place that doesn’t know or understand him. It’s also a place that he doesn’t know or understand either—the mystery of it locking him in place while he tries to figure out why people suddenly freeze or why his dad is in a video game.

What’s most arresting about Buckhead’s first issue is its last page. Like any good first issue, we’re given the kind of cliffhanger that makes us want to flip through the past few pages to see if there were any hints that look obvious in hindsight. We want more now. We want to see these mysteries unfurl. We want to see if Toba really is trapped in his current circumstance or if the situation of the last page will open this world up more than we had thought possible.

Get excited. Get exploring.

Drew Barth at Miami Book Fair in 2019.

Drew Barth (Episode 331 & 485) is a writer residing in Winter Park, FL. He received his MFA from the University of Central Florida. Right now, he’s worrying about his cat.