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Manor Black #1 Review

Fans of modern gothic tales like Dark Shadows or the works of Shirley Jackson will find a lot to love in Manor Black.

A family of sorcerers and a police department up to their ears in corpses kick off this new miniseries from writers Cullen Bunn and Brian Hurtt, with art from Tyler Crook.

The first thing you’ll notice upon opening Manor Black is the art style, which immediately puts you on a dark highway, the only thing illuminating the grays and blues of the night air being two headlights slicing wildly through the dark. Before a single line of dialogue is spoken, Tyler Crook’s spectacular illustrations and color palette tell us exactly what the tone of this book will be.

The chase that opens the issue is exciting and tense, dropping us in on a night that is going horribly wrong. This is a feeling that will run through the rest of the issue, as Bunn and Hurtt’s script doesn’t cut any of its characters any slack until the final page.

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The one drawback to this issue is the almost constant back and forth between competing plot lines. The two main threads seem to be a police investigation of the crash that opens the issue and Roman Black’s indecision about what to do with his remaining days. The only issue is that much of Roman’s side of the story is somewhat hard to follow, with several sequences that are mystical and interesting, but more or less unexplained. These blanks will likely be filled in as the series progresses, but it feels somewhat muddled at certain points.

Still, even the odder moments are well-written. In particular, the dialogue is a major highpoint of this book. Bunn nails the small town humor of the police officers investigating the crash site. They all seem to think they’re “the fun one” in the precinct, with the kind of repartee that encourages. These lighter scenes help to break up the gothic mystery of the sequences in the manor.

Meanwhile, a scene where Roman literally communes with the dead is filled with the kind of portentous purple prose that one would expect from an episode of Dark Shadows (in a good way). Though it’s not entirely clear what Roman gets from this conversation, the almost-oppressive gothic tone here makes me excited to read more scenes like this in later issues.

While the events of Manor Black‘s first issue mainly serve to set up the book’s mysteries, rather than give us a better idea of where the characters have come from, it’s still an intriguing start. After finishing this issue, you will want to know what it all means and where it’s heading, so in that regard, Manor Black #1 does its job with spooky aplomb.

Manor Black #1
Is it good?
Fans of modern gothic tales like Dark Shadows or the works of Shirley Jackson will find a lot to love in Manor Black.
The artwork is exceptional, equal parts gothic and (when the scene calls for it) somewhat whimsical
The dialogue is very strong, particularly with the characters at the police station
The characters' personalities all feel well-defined, even the ones we don't get to spend much time with
The story is occasionally hard to follow, with several scenes setting up future plot lines that feel like they're lacking a bit of context

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