Review - Manor Black #1 (@DarkHorseComics)

"And we still have plenty of time to do what must be done."

Being scared of the dark is a legit fear. A lot of that fear has to do with not entirely being able to see what's in the dark that could be waiting for you. In Manor Black #1 from Dark Horse Comics, the darkness is scary in a few other ways as well. The issue is written by Cullen Bunn and Brian Hurtt and illustrated by Tyler Crook.

Roman Black is the moribund patriarch of a family of powerful sorcerers. As his wicked and corrupt children fight over who will take the reins of Manor Black and become representative of the black arts, Roman adopts a young mage whom he gifts his powers to with the hope that someone good will take his place against the evil forces out to bring down his family and legacy.

There's a steadiness in the script by Bunn and Hurtt that reflects a larger patience in letting the story develop naturally. At the center of that story is Roman Black, a master of the black arts who's been tasked with finding a successor before dying; it's this notion that Bunn and Hurtt use to carry things forward. The black arts is what gives the book a supernatural twist, as both the world Black surrounds himself in and the details of a traffic accident are steeped in the unexplained. The dialogue is very sound in its delivery, offering the reader very natural conversations that help set the tone while also setting things in motion. Bunn and Hurtt are silky smooth in their delivery, making the book a very quick read that still manages to have a lot of depth to it.

Crook's illustrations are the perfect match for the type of atmosphere the book is seeking to establish. The art style feels unfinished at some points, yet there's something innately terrifying about how incomplete things feel that just really works. Crook's characters all feel very static and show little kineticism, engendering a startling sense of stillness that marries well to the tension that the writers are trying to create. While some of the characters look normal, Crook's take on the more supernatural ones feels sufficiently unsettling and reminds the reader that there's more to this book under the surface. Crook's colors are gorgeously done as well, providing a gorgeous watercolor effect that skews much darker than traditional watercolors normally do.

As far as first issues go, Manor Black #1 is definitely a slow burn (no plot pun intended). Roman Black is a man with a legacy to uphold, even if finding the right successor has proved to be incredibly difficult to complete. The script by Bunn and Hurtt is rock-solid and demands patience from the reader. Crook's style will definitely turn some people off at first, but as the issue progresses you can see that the sketch approach really seems to bolster the book's horror bonafides. Manor Black #1 offers a lot for a new series that looks to want to move out of the light and further into the dark.

Manor Black #1 is available July 31.