The Horror Honeys: Horror Comics ~ Black Magick #1

Horror Comics ~ Black Magick #1

A Guest Comics Honey Review by Allison

Black Magick #1

Writer: Greg Rucka
Artists: Nicola Scott, Chiara Arena (Colour Assists), Jodi Wynne (Letters), Eric Trautmann (Design)
Publisher: Image Comics
Released: October 2015

Writing: 3.5/5
Characters: 3/5
Art: 5/5
Entertainment: 3.5/5
Overall: 3.5 eerie candles out of 5!

From New York Times bestselling and Eisner Award-winning writer GREG RUCKA (LAZARUS, Stumptown, Gotham Central) and superstar artist NICOLA SCOTT (Birds of Prey, Secret Six, Earth 2)! Detective Rowan Black works robbery/homicide for the Portsmouth PD, but her greatest mystery is the truth about herself...both who she has been, and who she will become. Yet there are others in Rowan's world with very long memories, and the power that one person holds, another will always covet. PLUS, each issue also features an all-new work of original fiction by GREG RUCKA! A new gothic-noir ongoing series about legacy, destiny, redemption...and the price of magic. 

A "gothic-noir" story with a female protagonist? I knew I needed to pick up this debut issue, which gives us a peek inside the life of Rowan Black, where magic is hidden from regular world. Rowan has got one foot in each world and has to balance her identities as a detective and a witch.

The series isn't off to a bad start, but I think it could have benefited from a double-sized first issue. We're introduced to Rowan only briefly, and we never get to see inside her head at all; I don't know any more about her motivations or inner life than I did before I read the comic. The first issue is nearly a standalone story, given how tight and focused it is; this could be a short story on its own. But the story sets up future conflict in the form of some kind of witch hunting organization (who may not be entirely human themselves). The hostage situation is very straightforward, but we know our protagonist is never in any danger, so it lacks some tension. It's not a bad first issue, and Rowan's encounter with the criminal is plenty exciting, but I'd have liked to see an introductory issue dig a bit deeper into our main character.

Readers picking this series up in single issues won't be disappointed by the back matter, which includes lineage information for Rowan's family, (fake) historical documents about witches, and a note from editor Jeanine Schaefer about her experiences with Wicca. Even the letters pages are filled with letters from "Valkyries," women who work in comic book shops worldwide, and who received advance copies. Their enthusiasm makes you excited for the next issue.

I love it when you talk dirty.
While we barely get to know Rowan, I can hardly say we're introduced to any other characters to compare her to. We catch glimpses of her coven and coworkers, and I hope to see some of them expanded in future issues. Rowan herself is clearly capable, and you know she's cool since she rides a motorcycle. She's a witch and a cop, and it's clear she'll use magic to protect herself - so how often does she use those powers to assist her day job? She's not much more than a character sketch after this first issue, but given Rucka's strong work with Forever Carlyle in Lazarus, I'm confident that Rowan will develop some nuance and personality traits in the coming issues.

Now the art is fantastic. Scott uses more a of a flat, traditional comic-book style for medium and far shots, but gets into highly-detailed realism for close ups, which adds up a visually striking book. Rowan's face occasionally seems more pretty than expressive, but that changes toward the end of the book. The grey wash over everything adds especially to the noir atmosphere, but Arena and Scott use very subtle colour to enhance a few key scenes. The most significant is of course the use of Rowan's magic at the end, which makes her spell look more impressive and stresses its importance. But if you look closely, touches of restrained colour are scattered throughout the book, such as the gently-coloured candles on the first page. It's a neat detail that adds a lot of texture to the images and helps guide the eye along.

While this isn't precisely a horror story, it's tied with both Wicca and the infamous Witch Trials in America. The art is absolutely gorgeous, so I read the comic very slowly to just absorb every panel. So far, nothing has been too spooky (or scary), but this is a set up issue. I hope that the next will have a bit more magic, but we're already set up for a story where technology and magic conflict - or work side-by-side. I'm definitely intrigued enough to pick up the next issue.

I also derived a lot of pleasure from the number of women in this creative team. That's still an unfortunate rarity in comics, but it seems appropriate for a book about witches, doesn't it? We see men in Rowan's coven, but it's mostly women - a stark contrast to all of the men who work with her by day. That's another story dimension I look forward to exploring in future issues.