(originally posted on tumblr)
If you’ve been following me on twitter for any length of time this year, then you know I’ve been a huge fan of Roye Okupe and his E.X.O. project since it was in its kickstarter phase.
Finally, EXO has arrived in full color print and I must say, I am impressed. For starters, it’s HEAVY. No seriously, This book was printed on heavyweight paper. (I own other TPBs that don’t weigh this much!) Second, instead of delivering a 22 page comic with a bunch of extra art, like so many kickstarters “gifts” do, he gave away the first chapter for FREE. He then proceeded to print THE FIRST SIX CHAPTERS AT ONCE for a whopping 136 pages in total. (And yeah, there’s extra art too).
So basically, E.X.O. The Legend of Wale Williams Part One, is ostensibly an OGN (Original Graphic Novel) that never went to trade. Here’s the breakdown.
E.X.O. The Legend of Wale Williams
Wale Williams – Twentysomething unlikely hero that inherits an exosuit from his missing scientist father. His character to me feels like a cross between Victor Stone and a young Tony Stark. His father used to work for a company called PRYTEK whom his father had originally developed the suit (and weapons) for.
Oniku – Wale’s enemy. A masked villain who considers himself a vigilante out to “cleanse” Lagoon City of corruption and greed, while at the same time preying on it’s poorest members. He is more interested in capturing Wale than defeating him. I feel he is a cross between Darth Vader and Amon from Legend of Korra.
Fury – A mysterious female fighter with enhanced speed, trained fighting skills and gravity defying agility that seemingly comes out of nowhere to help Wale when he needs it.
Timi Williams – Wale’s younger brother, who has been the man of the house since both Wale left and their father disappeared. No powers, but is very involved in the resistance against corruption and Oniku’s terrorists.
Zahra – Wale’s half British/Half Nigerian ex-girlfriend. There is definitely some unfinished “business” there.
Wale, a twenty-something African man estranged from his father, returns home to Lagoon City, Nigeria in 2025. (Lagoon City is a fictional stand-in for Lagos) to find him missing. On the surface, things seems relatively normal, until Wale realizes that the poorest areas of the region, mostly along the outskirts of the city, are under siege by a mysterious masked/cloaked man calling himself Oniku and his C.R.EE.E.D. organization. Just as mysterious, is an encrypted message left for Wale on his computer by his father, not only alluding to his own demise, but instructing him to go to his home lab, where a sentient computer system and exosuit await him.
E.X.O. stands for Endogenic Xoskeletal Ordnance and is what gives Wale superhuman abilities.
With the suit and the newfound tech, Wale must defend his home, protect his family, search for his father and protect Lagoon City. When Timi gets hurt, Wale’s frustration is further inflamed by his need for revenge and he jumps into situations blindly just to exact retribution upon Oniku . That’s where his (former) girlfriend Zahra comes in. She seems to be the only one who can talk sense to him when he needs it. Although, at times, it seems, even that isn’t enough.
Wale knows he must confront Oniku otherwise he will destroy Lagoon City, but unbeknownst to Wale, Oniku is more concerned with Wale than the city itself. Layer that with a mysterious female warrior (Fury) who seems to know more about Oniku’s plans, Wale’s tech, his father’s disappearance and why PRYTECH weapons are involved.
What I Think
I really like Wale’s story. I LOVE the fact that the Williams’ are a wealthy African family that not only own property, but help the community around them. Wale does not seem to be privileged and callous, even though Wale’s Dad actually built a lab IN THE HOUSE. It’s a far cry from the images of Africa the West usually sees on TV. I also really like the fact that Wale (and his brother, as it turns out) have been trained to fight even without powers (or Wale’s suit).
Okupe also makes a veiled political statement by having his characters discuss the corrupt government and even includes a scene were Wale defends an elderly poor woman (sans suit). What’s interesting about this is that both Wale and Oniku agree on the need to eradicate the corruption and greed in the city. However, Wale wants to save Lagoon City from corruption and protect the poor, whereas Oniku wants to raze it and enslave whoever is left. It’s also inspiring to see the residents of Lagoon City fighting for what they believe in as well. Even if Oniku has overpowered them by force, he has definitely not broken their spirit.
I was a BIG fan of Fury’s art before, but I really like how she makes her appearance in the book. The art is drawn really well, the colors stay consistent and the fight scenes have plenty of depth and focus. I am also impressed that Okupe sprang for heavy-stock paper and ink usually reserved for TPBs on his first outing.
I only have one criticism of this book. The story moves really fast. I wanted more time with some of the characters (like Fury and Oniku) and scenes (like Wale’s first time seeing the suit) and more closeups to pull us more into the emotion of the story. But those are definitely minor fixes that I think Okupe can address in his sophomore effort, due out this spring. (I hope it will be sooner, actually, because this one left us with one hell of a cliffhanger!)
E.X.O. The Legend of Wale Williams is a powerful all-ages comic with positive images of a young Black man and modern Africa that I think is relatable on many levels. There is violence, but it’s not gratuitous and there’s no foul language.
I for one, am very proud to have supported this project from it’s infancy and I can’t wait to see more. Roye Okupe promised us an African superhero unlike anything we’d ever seen before and he delivers.
To learn more about the development of this book, listen to Roye explain it in his own words in this trailer:
Imprint – youneek studios
Created, Written and Produced by Roye Okupe
Editor – Ayodele Elegba
Artists – Sunkanmi akinboye; Godwin Akpan
Colorist – Raphael Kazeem