When was the last time a witch was given a modern spin? I can’t think of any, but of course I can imagine quite a few for vampires and a couple for werewolves (although that The Wolfman movie in 2010 wasn’t modern at all) but witches haven’t been updated for the 21st century. Leave it to comics to do us a solid and Image Comics delivers this week a new book about witches and witchcraft, but is it good?
Black Magick #1 (Image Comics)
To say this comic opens perfectly is an understatement. We open on a bunch of witches in open robes peforming a ceremony in the woods. God damn witches and their ceremonies, but when one of the witches’ cell phone goes off we quickly discover this story is taking place today. From there we learn the cell phone-carrying witch is a police detective and the reader isn’t so sure witchcraft is real in the comic. As the story progresses with a hostage situation anyone surprised this is written by Greg Rucka will quickly find the crime story elements are there for the taking.
Why does this comic book matter?
Greg Rucka is one of the best writers in comics, with a storied past and some fantastic series under his belt. His work on Gotham Central was highly regarded by fans for being so damn realistic with plenty of strong characters to latch onto. His work on Punisher a few years ago was one of the best runs for the character in ages, so really there’s no reason not to believe this is yet another awesome series for him.
Then you have artist Nicola Scott who can deliver lush, painted pages and I think it’s a no brainer this is worth picking up. These two combined mean we’re in for a story that’s not only well paced and looks great, but has strong characters too.
Interesting use of color.
Fine, you have my attention. What’s good about it?
The protagonist, Rowan Black, is very well thought out and I wouldn’t be surprised if Rucka and Scott did a lot of research and backstory to make it that way. You’ll instantly like this character, even if you’re not so sure of her intentions. That’s part of her appeal though, as we’re constantly being shown something we think we know only for this creative team to pull the rug out from under us.
That’s the same for our idea of witches and how Rucka and Scott are rewriting what we know about them. Are they just women playing dress up in the woods, or is there something deeper and more complicated about them? Are they bad or are they protectors of some sort? These are questions you’ll be thinking after reading this issue and believe me, you’ll want to learn more by the end of the issue.
The actual meat of the story revolves around a guy holed up in a fast food joint who has taken hostages. Black is called in specifically because this guy is asking for her, although she doesn’t know him. Rucka masterfully sets up the scene with a good pace and interesting story beats even though we’ve seen hostage situations in movies a hundred times. Once the plot progresses and gets a lot more dangerous for Black, things heat up in more ways than one.
Scott paints a fantastic issue with lifelike eyes, faces and scenery, mostly in black and white. Color is used eventually and it adds a nice pop to a tense scene. Ultimately this is a gorgeous issue that reads in a very cinematic way. At times I wondered if a Hollywood producer could just lift these panels and use them as storyboards. They’re that good at telling the story and delivering the necessary tension to make the scenes work.
It can’t be perfect, can it?
If you love character-driven stories with a good pace and not a lot of answers up front you’ll have a hard time finding anything wrong with this. If you’re a stickler for detail, some panels—smaller story progressing panels—lack the close up details, but it’s not distracting in the slightest.
Is It Good?
If there were a class on writing your first comic book issue this could easily be used as an exemplary example. By cracking open this book you’re bound to fall in love with the characters, art and above all else this new and exciting take on witchcraft.