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BOOK REVIEW: Cell Block Z By Ghosface Killah

Cell Block Z

Ghosface Killah with Chris Walker – Shauna Garr – Marlon Chapman

It just seems natural. These Shaolin students over in Staten Island have always been obsessed with the martial arts and the kicks and throws of Eastern combat training. Meth broke the ice with Method Man plowing new frontiers in the field of Hip-Hop graphic novels. Now it’s Ghost’s turn to play disciple with Cell Block Z, a fist-pumping comic book assisted by illustrator, Chris Walker (Marvel Comics, Virgin Records, Bad Boy Entertainment) and screenwriters, Shauna Garr and Marlon Chapman.

Cell Block Z tells the story of  Cole Dennis (which also happens to be Ghostface’s government reversed), a heavyweight contender falsely imprisoned for armed robbery and murder. After a prison official discovers his fighting background, Cole Dennis is convinced to train with the hopes that a few match victories will grant him entrance into Cell Block Z, a more comfortable detention unit. The black and white illustrations may not give the novel the classic look it’s intending, but they do give it an artsy sketchbook quality. Meanwhile, Carr and Chapman equip the book’s storyline with the necessary hidden plots and faithfully reveal a conspiracy behind Cell Block Z, a conspiracy that Cole Dennis and, his main advocate, Officer Johnston spend the rest of graphic novel trying to unravel.

Surprisingly enough, besides the actual style of fighting, Cell Block Z is a not a martial arts comic. Instead of the ancient texts, senseis, and codes of discipline that one would expect from Shaolin students, the book relies more on brute hand-to-hand combat. In this regard, Cell Block Z is more like Fight Club with the prisoners forming an underground battle zone of sorts. Then again, Cole Dennis , who later becomes Ghostface Killah, does direct his rage toward his own imprisonment, an abstract, more honorable opponent compatible to the martial arts philosophy. In a place where his peers are pummeling each other just for the sheer destruction, Ghostface Killah, in an eastern sense, emerges as a hero.

If not for entertainment value, Cell Block Z, like the Jackson Five cartoon show on ABC or the Beatles’ Yellow Submarine Lunchbox is a valuable relic. It serves as another product in the era of Wu supremacy and swiftly takes advantage of a untapped outlet.

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