This title intrigued me for some time, but I never got around to picking up a copy until recently. Published by Rosarium and with writing and artwork by John Jennings, Blue Hand Mojo: Hard Times Road centers on Half-Dead Johnson.
He’s a mage who made a deal with the Devil in the throes of sorrow that resulted from surviving a wicked event where he witnessed the deaths of his wife and children. I had always contemplated a fictional property that dealt with a Black person dealing in Black magic.
Because of American Christianity, many of the ceremonial and religious practices of West African slaves was considered evil. I can still hear some of the elders joke about curses, and the term “throwing bones” originally had nothing to do with dice or dominoes, but actually the throwing of animal bones by a Vodun priestess. So, right away I was hooked.
Hard Times Road finds Half-Dead in in 1931 Chicago when a former mob associate of his contacts him for assistance in dealing with a then ambiguous evil that had disseminated his entire crew. Though Frank fearfully tries to wiggle out of accompanying him inside, Half-Dead insists. The scene is a gruesome twist of mangled guts, blood and heads with eyes still gazing into forever as if still staring into the eyes of whatever wickedness vanquished him.
Through the deal to remain living he struck with a demon called Scratch, Half-Dead’s actual power comes from an entity called Noir. The living personification and source of Black magic, she replaced his hand with one that allows him to conjure and control dark forces. However, as is always the case with such powers, there’s a hitch – every time he uses the power it creeps up his arm and threatens to consume him.
Additionally, Half-Dead actually loves Noir. She represents the peace of finality that dodged him and consumed his family instead. Though he is trying to avenge the deaths of his family, Half-Dead Johnson is also trying to save his own soul and help as many people as he can along the way. Those are the only reasons why he doesn’t take Noir up on her offer and embrace her for eternity.
When Half-Dead uses his mojo to discern the truth of what happened to Frank’s crew, he sees a monster made of Mississippi mud disemboweling, beheading and shredding the crew of hardened gangsters. Frank finally comes clean and tells Johnson that he and his crew went to a South Side numbers racket at the behest of Al Capone to shake down a numbers racket queen named Liza Mae, things went left, the number runner’s son was shot dead, and a rival practitioner of dark magic was hired to root her fallen son’s soul to Mississippi mud and send him after those who took his prior physical shell.
The artwork features a lot of right angles, heavy shades and dark lines. It is very much reminiscent of cubism, fauvism, pop and expressionism art movements.
But this work is meshed into a graphic novel and isn’t hanging in some museum. The writing reminds me a great deal of a tale about Easy Rawlings, sprinkled with Iceberg Slim’s penchant for street language and the angst of Ghost Rider.
“Hard Times Road” is 100 pages long, but the quality and sheer negritude of the offering makes the time fly by when you’re reading it. All engrossing and creepy as hell, Blue Hand Mojo: Hard Times Road belongs on the big screen but the comic book is pretty damn good, too. Parental discretion advised for strong language and violence. This is a worthy offering to your collection!