Black Magick Volume 1: Awakening, Part One by Greg Rucka and Nicola Scott is the first trade paperback instalment in a supernatural, dark fantasy graphic novel series that follows detective Rowan Black. She has worked really hard to keep a few aspects of her life quite private. However, when a mysterious force begins to target Rowan in an attempt to kill her, she realises that someone out there knows her secrets and is determined to expose her if they can’t take her life.
When I checked this out from the library, I did so on a whim because the cover reminded me of old-school cop shows. What I wasn’t expecting was the artistic brilliance of the storytelling that had me wholly mesmerised from the first very page until the last.
The three main things that I adored beyond all else are the ambiance and tone of the tale, the pacing, and the monochromatic illustrations. Together all three of these elements created one of the finest comic introductions that I’ve had since I first picked up Monstress by Marjorie Liu and Sana Takeda.
When the comic starts, we follow Rowan as she’s called in to assist in an armed hostage situation. Upon arriving at the scene, she discovers that the culprit is holding the innocents against their will because he’s been waiting for her. From there, the methodical yet compelling enigma of this seemingly paranoid dude and his connection to Rowan is a near-instant hook. The story becomes apparent in its grittiness and sinister tone from here on out and definitely doesn’t let up until the very end. Even then, it leaves the reader aching in anticipation for whatever the fuck is going to happen next. I was gripping my tablet so tightly (read a digital copy) that my fingers became tingly, like Peter Parker’s spidey senses.
If one is searching for a wholesome and cosy crime comic to dive into, they certainly aren’t going to get it from Black Magick. No, this story is about supernatural forces, Wiccan-practising individuals, and the shadowy asshole figures that are determined to extinguish the Wiccans until their extinction, which I suspect is also interwoven into a malevolent conspiracy of sorts.
The pacing was excellent. Usually when I read a gritty crime narrative, regardless of the medium, they tend to be slower-paced and painstaking. Oft times the progression can be a tad bit too sluggish for my personal tastes, more so since I’m dyslexic and a slow reader as is. However, Black Magick flew by so fucking fast that when I did reach the eventual finale of the first volume, I was astounded. I was shocked and even a little offended that the experience was so extremely short-lived. This doesn’t mean that it flies by too fast. It just means the storytelling stride was a perfect compliment to the events and plot sequences unfolding on the pages. Nothing was overdone or exaggerated to incite gratuitously discomforting shock. It was wondrously natural and free-flowing, which complimented its exuberantly dark and engrossing essence fantastically.
All of these things are brought full-circle and tied into a flawless little bow with the artwork. Black Magick really emphasises one of the sole purposes that I have for reading comics and graphic novels. The badass storytelling prowess and the sheer amount of delight garnered from a reading session that relies so heavily on a visually interactive foundation.
The artwork is mainly monochromatic and the drawings so detailed and even cinematic that it pops off the pages and actively seeks to share the story of Rowan Black’s dilemmas. The whole point of comics is to tell stories with the artwork. The use of colours (or the lack thereof), the style and techniques of the drawings and craftsmanship, whether it’s entirely digital, hand-drawn or somewhere in-between—all of these are key components in the physical crafting of the tales.
With Black Magick, the bulk of the narrative is conveyed by its artistry. The artists do use colour, but only to emphasise vital details in the plot’s progression. Because of that, the minimalistically coloured moments stand out vividly in the reader’s mind and helps to get them much more invested in what is going on and whatever’s to come. It’s truly a mind-blowingly bilateral reading experience and it was freaking awesome.
All in all, Black Magick has me hooked like a freaking fish. I cannot wait to check out the rest of the available volumes from my local library as I’m definitely invested in Rowan Black’s plight. Plus, I love the Wiccan-infused background that Rowan and her community have as it’s a refreshingly unique adventure for me within the supernatural subgenre, and I’m curious to see how things shall play out with respect to the plot moving forward. As it stands, I highly recommend Black Magick Volume 1: Awakening, Part One to any and all fans of gritty, crime mysteries, and folx that enjoy the comic medium.
Publication Date: April 2016
Publisher: Image Comics (ISBN: 9781632156754)
Genre: Comics, Supernatural, Dark Fantasy
Series: Black Magick
Page Count: 128
Content Warnings: Ritualistic Wiccan practises. Hostage situation. Death by fire (on-page). Attempted drowning/murder. Gun violence. Mild cursing. Brief nudity.
GoodReads: Black Magick Volume 1: Awakening, Part One by Rucka and Scott