Monday, April 10, 2017

Review - Black Cloud #1 (@ImageComics)


"The future will always be dark."

One thing that's guaranteed about humans is that we're always looking for some way to escape. It may be some aspect of our life we're not keen on or we just need a break, there's something to be said about getting away for whatever reason. It's very rare that the "away" is a parallel dimension full of animal gangsters. Image Comics has a world like that in Black Cloud #1. The issue is written by Ivan Brandon (story by Brandon and Jason Latour), illustrated by Greg Hinkle, colored by Matt Wilson, color flats by Dee Cunniffe and lettered by Aditya Bidikar.

Zelda was born in a world of dreams, and hers burned bigger than anyone had ever seen. Now she's on the run in our world, the dreams broken in her hands. But the pieces are for sale, the rich and the powerful are buying, and suddenly her world isn't the only place Zelda's running from.

Brandon funnels the narrative through Mrs. Barrett, a somewhat mysterious lead character who has the means to send people to a completely different world that's chock full of talking animals and a 1920s nightclub vibe. It's a little unclear why or how she can pull this off (other than a mysterious drug), but Brandon uses that as a mechanism for launching the larger story. In fact, much of the issue is shrouded in mystery, in that Brandon doesn't really give the reader much in the way of motivation for Mrs. Barrett. Brandon is trusting that the reader is keen on having to figure things out as opposed to having the story explained to them. Brandon definitely has a backstory for Mrs. Barrett and how it plays out will likely be a pivotal part of the story's overall direction.

Hinkle's style is a great match for the nature of the book itself. It's a style that's a bit softer relative to the somewhat mature aspects of the book, but Hinkle uses it well to emphasize the more ethereal aspects of the book. The anthropomorphism is handle extremely well as Hinkle subtly works the animal beings into the strange world quite effortlessly. Hinkle does a great job with facial expressions, from Mrs. Barret's seemingly perpetual ennui to the sheer awe on the faces of her "guests." Wilson uses a color palette that overwhelms the readers with a dreamlike sensibility to it.

Black Cloud #1 is an interesting first issue that has its sights set on something grander. Zelda is a mysterious character who--if she isn't getting in over her head--is probably already in over her head. Brandon's earned the right to take things slow with the expectation that the series will shed some more light on what makes Mrs. Barrett and her magical world tick. Hinkle's artwork is the perfect amount of fairy tale to make the book feel that much more of something out a book of fables. Black Cloud #1 is a relatively slow-moving first issue that is setting the table for bigger and better things as it unfolds.

Black Cloud #1 is available now.

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