Hari Kondabolu recently made a documentary about one of the world ‘s recognizable, as well as its most stereotypical characters ever in animation, Apu. The very fact that the character is not voiced by someone of Indian decent, is a tradition, that goes back as old as the artform itself. As some people know that the character of Cleveland Brown on Family Guy is not voiced by an African American actor. The difference between Cleveland and Apu is not that one is more problematic than the other, but it is a matter of quantity.
In Kondabolu’s documentary, “The Problem with Apu,” most the interview subjects who grew up in America, expose the world to what most to of us know, Apu is not representative of any experience by any South Asian American. He also exposes, a systemic issue, one where every South Asian American, growing up, is identified with this character, one where the actor himself, refuses to even be interviewed for. The movie drives home that representation matters and that applies to all art forms. So, when I heard a bout a few years back, of The 99, I was intrigued to read this book about Muslim superheroes.
We are introduced to Dr. Ramzi Razem, who as a child discovered the Noor Stones, and the power they held, while visiting Spain. Years later, he became obsessed with finding al 99 of them, which were spread across the globe, and just each stone carried a unique power, it required a unique individual to possess it and wield its power. The reader gets to find out how each member of the 99 comes to find their own stone, and how they found their synergy with it. By book’s end, Razem, has assembled an awesome fighting force, that has to be ready for the war that is coming.
Overall, a great book that shows diversity matters and that great stories can come form anywhere in the world. The story by Naif Al-Mutawa and Stuart Moore is intricate, adventurous, and fun. The art by June Brigman, Albert Deschesne, Monica Kubina, Roy Richardson, and Dan Panosian is gorgeous. Altogether, a great book to a new universe that looks like the world.
Story: Naif Al-Mutawa and Stuart Moore
Art: June Brigman, Albert Deschesne, Monica Kubina, Roy Richardson, Dan Panosian
Story: 9.0 Art: 8.4 Overall: 9.1 Recommendation: BUY