Alexander Ighoja’s Showdown African comic scores amazing points on art but the story, not so much.

Before I start with the bulk of my critique, I have to commend Nigeria’s Peda Studio’s attempt to diversify its content catalogue by giving other creators a platform to express their creativity. After the release of the Kickstarter success story, New Born Saga: Legend of the Mlezi, Peda Studio seemed to be on the right path to producing quality African stories that are increasingly demanded by African youth.

And its founder Peter Daniels, the creative brain behind the New Born Saga, managed to establish himself as a force to be reckoned with, as the epic comic-book he birthed was a visual delight with a captivating story. One can argue that there was an impressive level of research and thought that went into the development of New Born Saga, which translated quite well into the final product.

However, Showdown was a bit disappointing and I will tell you why.

Showdown – Chaos Rising Synopsis

Showdown – Road to Paradise City

Within the hustling and bustling of Paradise City, a shadowy organisation is close to revolutionising a new type of bio-weapon in the arms black market. Under the cover of an entertainment media outfit, they have created the perfect testing ground in the form of a live combat tournament show. In the midst of all this, a young man from out of town who arrives in the big city in search of his brother crosses paths with a laid-off police detective who is secretly on a case involving the disappearance of an old colleague of hers. The two become an unlikely pair as their paths lead them to the live combat tournament.

Research, World Building and Chakra

I laud the creator for taking the risk of developing a story centred in a land far from his; namely Somalia. However, the book is poorly developed. Not a lot of research went into creating such an aesthetically pleasant comic.

For example, on one of the pages,  the character of the professor says “these writings should tell us something” but nowhere do we get to see those writings. No hieroglyphs, no nsibidi, no arabic…nothing suggesting that the creator took the time to research ancient African writing systems, or even create one that suits the story.

Additionally, the set design of the tomb feels flat. A story like this one that falls into the mystery-archaeology style for which Indiana Jones and The Mummy are famous for, should stand out and not be a poor copy-paste.

Secondly, still, on the level of thinking that went into the development of the story, I could not help but ask myself “why Chakra? Was there no other term to use?” The term chakra is not only foreign to African culture – it is rooted in Buddhism – but saying that it’s spirit energy is a complete misrepresentation of the Buddhist ideology.

For creative license, Masashi Kishimoto, the author of the hit series Naruto,  got away with using chakra as a term to describe the spirit energy that allows Ninjas to practice ninjustu/genjutsu/taijutsu. However, he managed to make it his creative license, which has then been strongly associated with the Naruto franchise. In fact, Chakras are energy centres within the human body that help to regulate all its processes, from organ function to the immune system and emotions. Which is what The Last Airbender series got right.

My advice to Alexander Ighoja is that he needs to spend more time better developing his story world. In Hunter x Hunter, for example, the spirit energy is called the Nen and the fact that it is so complex makes it authentic and denotes a deep level of conceptualisation undergone by the author Yoshihiro Togashi.

What’s at Stake in Showdown?

Is chaos really upon us?

One element of the narrative is not holding up. It is clear that the creator wanted to end with a cliffhanger, however, it was really poor. Why? Because you don’t get a sense of what is at stake. The (protagonist ) ninja only says “Chaos is upon us“. That is woefully inadequate.

Nowhere in the story have we been told what this artefact is or what kind of destructive power it holds. As a reader, I can’t help but ask these questions: “chaos is upon us? What does that even mean? Why should I care? Will the said artefact transform humanity into mosquitoes? Or open a portal to a bunch of bloodthirsty demons?” Put simply, the higher the stakes, the better the drama and the better the drama, the more invested your readers are.

My second peeve is the plot giveaway early on in the story, specifically the intro page. As a reader, I’d rather understand the story as it unfolds by reading than having my expectations set from the get-go. The problem now after reading this first issue is that I have seen nothing that was said in the intro page. So the book has ruined my expectations.

As a customer, I’m therefore unsatisfied with the product that was sold to me. That would then be called false advertising, which is bad publicity for a studio that is building an identity on the foundation of quality storytelling.

Plot Holes

There are two major theatrically invalid performances.

First of all, a tomb that holds such a powerful artefact should be extremely well guarded. But in Showdown, there are no traps, no riddles to solve and no guardians whatsoever. The antagonists just go ahead and get what they want without facing any obstacles. That’s too easy and theatrically invalid. Additionally, the ninja meant to safeguard the tomb, should not have appeared long after they’d reached the artefact. It’s pure negligence.

Secondly, the story says the protagonist has some teleporting abilities as opposed to his partner.  According to the ninja, the artefact is capable of bringing chaos into the world. This begs a question, why didn’t he just teleport himself inside the villains’ helicopter to retrieve the artefact? I mean, if that was me, I’d do anything to stop the robbers, especially if I have the ability to teleport.

Is Showdown Good?

The art in Showdown is incredible and easily sits among the best African comics. The story, however, needs a lot of work. For a first issue, it failed to match the art by drawing me into the world that Peda Studios is creating.

The story in subsequent issues needs to improve significantly in order for Showdown to live up to its promise. I implore Alexander and Peda Studios to go back to the drawing board and come back with a story that lives up to their name.

Download and/or read Showdown online here.