A breathless comic-book noir–replete with crooked politicos, international crime lords, bungling policemen and a man-eating tiger–that marks the debut of a new African-American superhero: Shak-Tar, the Great One.
The lesson to be learned from this entertaining, slight volume is that meteors are best avoided by those who wish to lead quiet lives. The radiant glow of such an airborne plot device engulfs our hero, young Shaka, one night while the lad is hanging out at the San Diego Zoo, ultimately landing him in hospital with grievous wounds that magically heal themselves before the eyes of the attending doctors and nurses. They also give him other nifty superpowers, such as psychic communication skills that make Dr. Doolittle look like an amateur. It’s a dark time in sunny California. Drugs are killing kids in record numbers and the governor enlists the mayor of Los Angeles to help him stop the flow of narcotics from Africa to his state. Little does Gov. Turner know that the mayor is secretly the West Coast coke cartel’s kingpin. Soon the energized Shaka partners with 1,200-pound Cu-Rue the tiger (who also appears in Douglas’ debut, El Cucuy, 2006) and wise elder Mr. Buscar, embarking on a globetrotting adventure in which wrongs are righted and bad guys are punished, all under the watchful eye of mythical badass Shak-Tar. The author’s prose style is pure post-Da Vinci Code: few paragraphs are more than three short sentences in length, most are merely one. Tenses shift needlessly, and the dialogue is often labored. But, technical faults aside, Shak-Tar may find a niche. Designed for speed, not endurance, Douglas’ miniature epic has all the makings of a graphic novel: a compelling protagonist or two, easily identifiable villains, a host of moral certitudes and, most importantly, a great big scary animal.
For urban youths with a taste for mystical jungle hijinks both at home and abroad.