Tuesday, June 15, 2004


As something of a Kyle Baker fanboy, it has always stuck in my craw a bit that I have not been able to turn up a copy of his unusual collaboration with rapper KRS-One, "Break The Chain." However, thanks to the generousity of the excellent Ed Cunard I finally have one. And boy, is it a treat.

Well, sort of. Truth be told, "Break The Chain" is far from Baker's greatest work, but its heart is in the right place. Based on KRS' music, the comic tells the story of a rapper named Big Joe Krash and his efforts to educate the young African-American kids in his neighborhood about who they really are. To Joe, an educated and caring man, the kids are almost disrespectful to their background. They've heard the names Malcolm X, Nat Turner, and Harriet Tubman and know that they were important, but the kids haven't taken the extra step to understand who they were.

Indeed, education is the primary theme of the book, as Krash (KRS One's alter-ego) strives to make the kids understand that it isn't enough to just scratch the surface and let the mind waste. Instead, he wants the kids to realize that only by learning about what it means to be Black in America will they ever be able to lift themselves up and carry themselves with pride. Krash preaches that there is a pride to being African-American, but that pride must be earned and respected.

"Break The Chain" gets more than just a little preachy, and at times, the discourse and dialogue slips awfully close to the "After School Special" level, but that's entirely forgiveable in this case. That's because Baker and KRS One are attempting to make one of the most important points possible that they can hope to get across to their audience. I don't know if this sold well when it came out, but I can guarantee you that each of those sales was a step in the right direction for a great many young people. This is one of the better "message" comic books 've ever read.