The first issue of Black Cloud dropped us into a rich fantasy world with Zelda Barrett as our guide. Zelda’s world exists behind the curtain of our own; a world where the ability to tell stories, dream and perceive outside the norm manifests itself into magic beyond what’s possible in our own. Zelda’s world is beautifully complex, mysterious and downright confusing.
Writer: Ivan Brandon, Jason Latour
Artist: Greg Hinkle, Matt Wilson
Publisher: Image Comics
It’s not every day that you finish the first issue of a new book more confused than when you started. But trust me when I say in this case, that’s okay. Jason Latour and Ivan Brandon have created something wonderfully unique with Black Cloud. So let’s jump in to issue 2 and find out, is it good?
Zelda has a knack for finding trouble, and as she slips away from the consequences of her actions in the Outside, new dangers find her in New York.
What’s the skinny?
Greg Hinkle, known for his work on Airboy and The Rattler, brings his unique cartooning style to bear in a way that perfectly accompanies this innovative fantasy world. The partnership of Hinkle and Matt Wilson works wonders as the story switches between our urban landscape and a rich fantasy world. Wilson helps set the emotional tone in each scene while Hinkle delivers his commanding style in a way that smoothly takes a dream world from imagination to reality.
When we last met Zelda we were introduced to a fascinating character living between two worlds, struggling to survive by selling the manifestations of her stories and dreams. In the backdrop of New York’s mundane day-to-day life, our protagonist sells a new avenue to experience elation, fear and delight. This appeals to the son of a wealthy politician and in turn, the politician himself, but in this case for vastly different reasons.
Unfortunately for Zelda the need to eat overwrites the natural suspicion of a deal that appears too good to be true. Our hero, if she can be called that, spends this issue trying to piece together her most recent adventure into her former home world. It appears that a side effect of moving between the dream world and our world is temporary memory loss.
Parallel to Zelda’s present rich boy detective work, we’re provided with a glimpse through the key hole on a trip down memory lane. The relationship between Zelda and the ominous Frank was at one time a camaraderie, possibly even romantic. It’s hard to say for sure, as we don’t get too deep of a dive into Frank and Zelda, or even Frank’s face. What we do receive is a look at the different philosophies with which the two approach their story/dream world and the name of a sure to be important character(s), The Old-Fathers.
So what’s the catch?
It’s hard to call anything in this issue bad. Black Cloud is a lot of things; it’s a multilayered world that I’m loving diver deeper into, whether I understand what’s going on or not. It’s also very confusing at several points and doesn’t make any effort to hold your hand. This could be a turn off to some readers.
Is it good?
Thanks to the partnership of Hinkle and Wilson, readers are left with a very distinct vision of two vastly different worlds: one of fantasy, beauty and mystery; the other a stark, vivid, urban reality. Every panel is beautiful, rich with emotion and demands your attention.
Upon finishing this issue I find myself in similar circumstances to when I finished the first issue–sitting on a pile of questions that has only gotten bigger, not smaller. Traditionally this scenario would be frustrating, but instead Latour and Brandon have flipped things on me and I find myself excited to tumble further down the rabbit hole. As a reader you’ve been provided with a measure of trust from the creators. Trust that the mystery and confusion will pay off, trust that you’re willing to stick it out and see what the unknown holds. Not all writers possess the stones to be this bold; I’m glad Latour and Brandon do.