A fantastical universe collides with our own as a young woman makes a living selling pieces of a dream world that has been lost in Black Cloud #1. Is it good?
Black Cloud #1 (Image Comics)
There’s a bit of an air of mystery about Black Cloud #1, even as one gets deeper into the issue. Writers Jason Latour and Ivan Brandon craft an ethereal world and trust their audience to follow the story. There’s no hand-holding here; the protagonist goes through most of the first issue nameless and the rules of her world and how she utilizes her talents are touched on only briefly. The audiences are given the bare minimum of information as to how this world all works, and that’s part of the fun.
By dropping the readers into the deep end, there’s an edge and excitement to Black Cloud #1 that parallels the urgency the protagonist has for making a quick buck. The story gets its hooks into the reader by giving a first hand view on Ms. Barrett’s desperation and her day-to-day fight for survival. This approach might not work for every reader, however, as the lack of an explanation as to what the dream world is or how it works may simply be too disorienting for some.
Greg Hinkle’s cartoony style works great with the freeflowing narrative, providing a distinct rhythm and feel to the issue that works well with a narrative that could have easily felt disjointed with a more realistic style. Whether it’s a street cart worker trying to shoo off our protagonist, or a yellow anthropomorphic chameleon, Hinkle’s figures are lively and provide an instant sense of character that makes them pop off the page. This extends to his environments, especially the pieces of the dream world that at times feel nonsensical, but still work in a uniquely stunning way.
Matt Wilson’s color artwork is simply jaw dropping. The color palette starts off narrow, as a brief flashback explains the nature of stories, before jumping into our modern world, before becoming a dichotomy of a black-and-white dream world highlighted by an ethereal version of Ms. Barrett, leading an unwitting Todd through a world of anthropomorphic animals. But the true magic of Wilson’s work comes when they return and the vividness of his palette for the “real world” jumps out at you. It’s a startling effect that captures the magic of the issue, without the narrative having to explicitly call it out.
Is It Good?
Black Cloud #1 is a strong debut that trusts that its readers won’t get lost along the way. Writers Jason Latour and Ivan Brandon make an inspired choice to withhold the protagonist’s “wiki” information (think name, where she’s from, what major life events have happened) and focus more on conveying her emotional state, allowing readers to anchor themselves to her even as they aren’t quite sure who she is. And though this decision may result in a few readers simply deciding that they don’t want to take this plunge into the unknown, stellar artwork by Greg Hinkle and Matt Wilson makes for an entertaining read. Black Cloud #1 doesn’t follow the formula for first issues, and it rewards its readers with an exciting world.
Black Cloud #1 hits the stands April 5th.