Review - Blackbird #1 (@imagecomics)

"Take me away from this broken life."

Every now and then we want an escape from the world--that escape could be a movie or music or magic. In Blackbird #1 from Image Comics, magic and reality collide. The issue is written by Sam Humphries, illustrated by Jen Bartel, layouts by Paul Reinwand, colored by Nayoug Wilson and Bartel and lettered by Jodi Wynne.

In this neo-noir fantasy, Nina Rodriguez is positive that a secret magic world ruled by ruthless cabals is hiding just beneath the veneer of Los Angeles. The problem: everyone thinks she’s crazy. The bigger problem: she’s not crazy—she’s right. Can she unravel the mystery before the Great Beast catches up with her?

Humphries essentially breaks the issue up in two parts, the first of which is important backstory for the series as a whole. The relationship between Nina and her sister is complicated as expected, but it does a great job of grounding the magical story in a sense of reality. Humphries doesn't rush into anything as the issue is paced precisely and affords the characters plenty of time to breathe and reflect the personalities well. And that core of the story is a great sense of wonderment as Humphries engages the reader through the appearance of magical creatures and gateways, both of which always seem to be ever-present. Humphries taps into Labyrinth in a way as well with Nina channeling Sarah from the film in her desire to be part of a magical world without fully realizing the consequences of such a decision.

There's a lot to like about Bartel's illustrations which are crisp and concise. It's a very simple art style that feels very elegant and refined; Bartel doesn't waste anything with a very lean style that's great at impressing upon the reader the relevant emotions. Bartel excels with the rendering of the magical elements in a way that looks gorgeous and really helps the reader reconcile their sense of imagination with the world being created. Bartel's grandiose magic is further emboldened by Reinwand's layouts that flow effortlessly from one panel to the other and highlight the sheer scope of the world hidden in plain sight. Wilson's colors are bright and vibrant, infusing a further notion of wonder by embellishing the magic sensibilities of the world.

Blackbird #1 taps into a lot of books in the magic/reality zeitgeist. Nina is desperately seeking a world of magic and will do what she can to seek it out, but it's going to prove more complicated than one would think. Humphries is a great writer with a very focused script that moves methodically and establishes the series well. Bartel's illustrations are a great fit tonally and effective at engendering a world of enlightenment and wonder. Blackbird #1 is a very imaginative first issue that establishes a new universe where magic and reality collide.

Blackbird #1 is available now.