TW: Rape/Sexual Assault
I often take notes when I read comics to review but no comic has made me jot down as many bullet points as The Black Dahlias. The book was created and lettered by Kristin Schwarz and Shad Clark with Clark writing. It follows a group of female vigilantes who take justice into their own hands. The Black Dahlias is more or less a revenge fantasy for women everywhere, especially those deeply hurt by powerful white men violently crusading against the rising tide of progressive change.
We begin with the team, a group of women who call themselves The Black Dahlias, stop a man from raping his own employee after spiking her drink. The team is made up of four female team agents and an “Oracle”-type figure running the show from her computer. These women are femme fatales with a twist.
This feminist tale is not scared to offend you and it’s not scared to wave it’s “agenda” in your face and I respect that. We live in a country that is more polarized than ever and while I do not think this book will quell any of the polarization, it does point to the most dangerous extremes on the right. This feminist tale tackles the misogynist roots of the modern alt-right nazis while also establishing that their toxic masculinity is hurting men and women alike. As a feminist myself I have always argued that toxic masculinity hurts men as much as it hurts women.
Ari Syahrazad’s art combined with Claudia Aguirre’s art matches the story well. I love the color and line elements used in panels to illustrate drowsiness and confusion throughout the story. My favorite page and part of the story is actually the reveal of the reasoning behind their name, The Black Dahlias. The entire book but especially this page has a graininess that is similar to old VHS tapes. The coloring is muted but becomes less transparent at the bottom when we see our vigilantes. There is so much symbolism within this panel’s art and coloring alone and it bleeds into the story.
As many people might be aware, “The Black Dahlia” was a moniker given to murder victim Elizabeth Short by the press following the fantastical true crime case that still dazzles audiences. Anyone who follows true crime as much as I do knows that story after story romanticizes victims and often judges them for their life choices. Recently, the AP changed a tweet to call victims “prostitutes” instead of women. While the tweet has since been deleted, it is important to note that someone thought the label of a sex worker was more important than that of human somehow implying these women “asked for it” based on their life choices.
The AP has deleted a tweet about killings in Texas because it identified four individuals allegedly murdered by a Border Patrol officer as prostitutes, rather than as women or victims.
This comic punches that logic in the face even going so far as to turn it on its head by using the wording against the men committing these violent, repulsive acts. By calling themselves The Black Dahlias these women in Short’s honor hope to make medicine out of their poison.
I loved this comic but understand it is absolutely not for everyone. It deals heavily with rape and sexual violence so be wary if that is triggering for you. Overall, I do recommend picking it up. The self-published Issue #0 is currently available online.
I loved this comic but understand it is absolutely not for everyone. It deals heavily with rape and sexual violence so be wary if that is triggering for you. Overall, I do recommend picking it up.