I Am Al­fonso Jones

Foreword Reviews - - Spotlight Reviews Comics & Graphic Novels -

Tony Me­d­ina, Stacey Robin­son (Il­lus­tra­tor) John Jen­nings (Il­lus­tra­tor) Tu Books (OC­TO­BER) Soft­cover $18.95 (176pp) 978-1-62014-263-9

Tony Me­d­ina tack­les the is­sue of race and po­lice bru­tal­ity in the unique, teen­friendly graphic novel I Am Al­fonso Jones.

Al­fonso Jones, a black teenager, is killed by an off-duty po­lice of­fi­cer who mis­takes a coat hanger in Al­fonso’s hand for a gun. Al­fonso had been study­ing Ham­let in school, and Me­d­ina uses the con­ceit of ghosts re­lat­ing in­for­ma­tion to ed­u­cate Al­fonso about the long history of po­lice shoot­ings and abuse against black peo­ple as he meets with many such vic­tims in the af­ter­life. Al­fonso learns even as he silently watches his fam­ily, friends, and even the po­lice of­fi­cer who shot him deal with the af­ter­math of his death.

It’s a com­pli­cated and con­tro­ver­sial topic, and Me­d­ina does a good job of bal­anc­ing prac­ti­cal ad­vice (one char­ac­ter pro­vides a list of “rules” for deal­ing with the po­lice, in­clud­ing “don’t run”) even while point­ing out that seem­ingly harm­less vi­o­la­tions (like run­ning away) don’t jus­tify fa­tal vi­o­lence. Me­d­ina’s char­ac­ter­i­za­tions are de­tailed and ap­peal­ing, us­ing lan­guage nat­u­ral to teens, and his ki­netic art force­fully con­veys the myr­iad emo­tions that the book’s sub­ject raises. The use of ac­tual vic­tims’ sto­ries makes Al­fonso’s fic­tional tale ring all too true.

Al­fonso’s class goes on to adapt Ham­let as a hip-hop play, and the bits that Me­d­ina shows are in­trigu­ing enough that he might con­sider a full hip-hop graphic novel adap­ta­tion. I Am Al­fonso Jones, mean­while, stands as a valu­able tool for ed­u­cat­ing young peo­ple about the history of po­lice in­jus­tice.

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