BLACKBIRD #1 / Writer: Sam Humphries/ Artist: Jen Bartel / Letterer : Jodi Wynne / Publisher: Image Comics / Release Date: December 5th 2018
I think I mentioned this in my last review (and I am too busy/lazy to check) but the most striking thing about Blackbird- apart from the fun, epic urban fantasy by way of mahou shoujo setting and the soul warming, exquisite art courtesy of Jen Bartel- is that it feels very… now. Of this particular time in the pop culture zeitgeist thing we live in. I know that sounds wanky and pretentious (not to mention it makes me sound like I’m in my thirties… which I am), but stay with me- I am going somewhere with this.
We kind of live in the age of the witch- the historically downtrodden, carving out a path with what is culturally expected of us- magic, living in the background, looked down upon and generally movin’ in mysterious ways that baffle the straights- I mean, mortals. We also live in an age of glorious technicolor and nostalgia for the era of synth. It’s my jam. I love this stuff so much. I want it in my eyeballs as often as humanly possible and if you feel the same, I’d recommend Blackbird on that basis alone. The story doesn’t take a lot of surprising turns if you’re even half way familiar with urban fantasy- especially contemporary urban fantasy in comics like Wicked + the Divine– but that honestly doesn’t matter. I keep thinking about young readers, especially young teenage girls, who might be browsing the shelves looking for something that speaks to them and I hope they land on something like Blackbird.
It feels more like a YA novel, which is a great gateway drug for becoming a comic reader and these are the readers the industry needs. Artists like Jen Bartel capture something profoundly like… now. Something vibrant and colorful, yet grounded in more realistic proportions and defined lines (I think I compared her art to a famous bit of graphic art from the 80?). We as readers are lucky to have them, every time I see some cover art by either Bartel or Jenny Frisson (whose doing a variant cover for issue #5) I sigh inside and think about just how stunning their work looks.
I have kind of forgotten to talk about the writing- I don’t want to give to much of the story away- again, if I drop even the merest hints you might figure out where this might be going and I want you to actually read it. Though I will say, Sam Humphries also wrote Jonesy, another fun- though far more cute and comedic- introduction for young readers getting into comics. Whilst Blackbird does feel like retrodden territory, it does not matter and you will enjoy it regardless. Trust me.
It’s not quite as weird as Wicked or as outright violent and Lovecraftian as say, Locke and Key, but for first time readers or maybe someone who wants a straightforward tale- I’d steer them this way.
And to be 100% fair, we’re just getting started- we’re on issue 3 and we end on a cliffhanger and a half. I’m prepared to be wrong about where I think this is going- and I’m pretty keen to find out!
Verdict: 4 out of 5
I’m a thirty something British nerd-mum and wannabe author, fueled by tea, poor decision making and a need to be distracted. Cursed to watch favourite characters die and ships sink.