Saturday, July 18, 2009

"Cell Block Z" | Hip Hop Is 'Read' Book Review

Let it be known that my familiarity with graphic novels doesn’t stretch too far beyond the works of Alan Moore and Frank Miller. For a more thorough and qualified perspective, I suggest you check out Dart Adams over at Poisonous Paragraphs – a Top 50 Rap Blogs-caliber hip hop spot – who, by the way, has already penned a review for "Cell Block Z", the latest in a series of Wu-Tang novels from the Hachette Book Group.

My interest in "Cell Block Z" rests primarily upon my affinity with all things Wu. Released precisely a year after Method Man’s eponymous 2008 novel, "Cell Block Z" doesn’t inhabit the supernatural world of Peerless Poe. If anything, Ghostface’s gritty “The Champ”, from his ’06 album Fishscale serves as both an overture and soundtrack to the storyline behind "Cell Block Z". Cole Dennis (see what they did with Ghost’s government name, Dennis Coles?) is a heavyweight contender who finds himself captive in Caucasus Federal Penitentiary for a crime he didn’t commit. It’s kinda like The Hurricane but with a hip hop, semi-sci-fi, evil corporation/government conspiracy twist. In some ways, Dennis’ character resembles Afro from Afro Samurai, with his patient, reticent demeanor. Questions arise throughout the reading: What is Cell Block Z? What is past Cell Block Z? And while the novel would have definitely benefited from a stronger back story behind Dennis’ origins, the reader is nonetheless engrossed in the choices he’ll need to take in order to make it out of Caucasus alive.

"Cell Block Z" doesn’t particularly offer many allusions to hip hop, other than a handful of references to the Wu-Tang Clan throughout. However, there’s a full-folio image on page 40 of the novel that should appeal to the fans, particularly aficionados who are hip to Ghost’s mask days. In summation, "Cell Block Z" is a solid one shot deal in that it’s an engaging story that can be read in one sitting. The black and white graphics added a touch of noir style to the tale, but hey, like I said before, I’m not an expert on this stuff! As a Wu-stan, all I can say is that I enjoyed the read and I recommend it to Hip Hop Is Readers if my (p)review has stoked your interest!