cover image The Eightfold Path

The Eightfold Path

Steven Barnes, Charles Johnson, and Bryan Christopher Moss. Megascope, $24.99 (240p) ISBN 978-1-4197-4447-1

Barnes (Lion’s Blood) and Johnson (Middle Passage) team up with artist Moss (The Experiment Known as Rose Marie Hernandez Willamson) for a story collection with cosmic ambitions hampered by some earthly flaws. Eight spiritual pilgrims, called to the mountains by the guru Acharya Bodhi, shelter together in a cave and learn that their purpose is to “take the next important step in your evolution.” In the meantime, they swap stories theoretically themed around the eight spokes of Buddhist enlightenment. These include an EC-style horror comic set on a Southern plantation, a psychedelic romance in the far future, a postapocalyptic story in which Black people are immune to a zombie plague, and an inner-city drama featuring kung fu. The experimental narrative aspires to teach the principles of Buddhism, including with morality, self-improvement, and the question, “What is a man?” through Afrofuturist science fiction and Black-centered fantasy. But murky moral messages are scattered in choppy scenes. Moss’s art, with roughly blocked figures and sketchy backgrounds, shows promise but isn’t up to the challenge of the script’s sweeping variety of fantastical settings and situations. Despite the potential, the ambitious concepts here get lost in search of a story. Agent: Eleanor Wood, Spectrum Literary Agency, Anne Borchardt, Georges Borchardt, Inc. (Feb.)