New from Saturday AM, Where Blackness & Manga Intersect: “Orisha”

It's a new era for the World's Most Diverse Manga Comics Anthology!

Words & Art: Huzayfa Umar // Saturday AM

Orisha is a manga that’s at the precipice of greatness.

Real issues, like young Aboki struggling with acceptance because of his unique complexion, get woven together with bold fantasy elements, such as our protagonist’s rare encounter with a dying Orisha. The run-in changes everything about the trajectory of this young man’s life. Saturday A.M. magazine founder, Frederick L. Jones, has another hit on his hands with this one-of-a-kind, all-African manga written and drawn by Nigerian artist, Huzayfa Umar. The world’s most diverse Shonen comics anthology has created an action-fantasy series that doesn’t shy away from some hard-hitting topics and the deep-rooted issues communities often face.

Off the rip, I need to give a huge shout out to Umar for his incredible job with the artwork. Not only does the manga flow beautifully, but his attention to detail puts many of your favorite artists to shame! The ability to create a wide range of facial expressions is one of my demands for excellence, which he does well, but the portrayal of black hair is often an easy mark of artists who don’t care enough or just don’t get it. Umar has clearly grown up around the various styles of hair, long and short. You can see the textures every time a new character is introduced, which produces a similar feeling to when you meet a new person and are wholeheartedly impressed with their hurr do. Whether it be braids, locs or a fro, I get the impression Zayf is using real world experience for his character depictions.

Speaking of characters, our protagonist, Aboki, is a complex and endearing lad, making him very easy to root for. From the first page to the last, it is clear that he will not let his outcast label define him. Umar does an outstanding job of throwing us headfirst into this world and giving readers just enough information to understand the stakes, and why. A bartering scene between Aboki’s pops and a customer is all you need to know what sort of a life the young man has lived. He excitedly interrupts his dad’s sale with news that he might have found the cure for his skin condition. Upon realizing who this young man is, the customer immediately freaks out and runs away terrified when touched by the slightest graze.

Despite the harsh prejudices he faces, Aboki puts on a brave face and places others before himself. No scenes are more evident of this than his run in with a fading Orisha in the middle of nowhere. Before he has any clue who this powerful being is, he is ready to drag this stranger’s injured body back to his father, who just happens to be one of the best healers around. This type of kindness is not afforded to every main character in a story, but I truly appreciate this characteristic of Aboki. Of course, he and his selfless attitude are rewarded with one of the most powerful seeds in the world, and I can’t wait to see what mischief and heroics he gets into as a result. There’s something special brewing with Orisha, and I hope people check out this story along with the rest of the Saturday AM lineup.

See more of the aspiring artist from Nigeria here on his Instagram! See more of Saturday A.M. here on their website, Instagram, Tumblr and Youtube. Lastly, Saturday AM’s LONG-AWAITED MOBILE APP is FINALLY HERE! Readers can read Orisha for free for a limited time in Issue #115 through the app!

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  • Ja-Quan is a NYC teacher and artist holding a B.A. in Sociology and History from SUNY New Paltz. On his journey to become Hokage, the Lord of The Speed Force and Protector of the Recaps can be found North of The Wall, chopping it up on Twitter @OGquankinobi

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