Labeled "Occult/Suspense/Crime" on its back cover, "Black Magick" #1 delivers on all three counts. This debut issue from Greg Rucka and Nicola Scott is another solid hit for Image.
Scott opens with a woodland Wiccan gathering under a pale moon as the robed figures in attendance seek balance with the world. The pale moonlight in the forest lends itself to the scene's faded colors, which emanate luscious graytones and washes that evoke mystery and intrigue. As Chiara Arena is credited with "color assists," it's likely she polished Scott's work or the two of them tag teamed. It sure seems like a collaborative effort, with no distinguishable line to say, "Scott's work stops here and Arena's starts there." Visually, the collaboration between line and color doesn't get much tighter in comics, at least not with two people working on it.
Rucka gives Scott the chance to define both of Rowan Black's worlds by starting at the Circle and interrupting religion with work. Scott is as adept drawing a hostage standoff as she is at illustrating tall pines and a haunting moon. Scott gives readers a story full of visually distinct settings and characters but elevates Rowan as the central figure throughout. Rowan is a little bit Lynda Carter, a dash of Joan Jett and a pinch of Sigourney Weaver, bringing the fiery personality of each into an expressive character who emotes as much through her body language as her facial expressions. Despite a voluminous career with many highlights and numerous accolades, Nicola Scott turns in career-defining work with teases of color amidst gray wash. Hints, glints, gleams and shadows of color balance the fantastic and unknown with the mundane and procedural, which is exactly the balance "Black Magick" #1 requires. When the colors are employed and letterer Jodi Wynne changes up the word balloons, the story really hits the readers in the face. Things change, the mundane and the fantastic explode into one another and Scott, Arena and Wynne make it all gorgeous.
Rucka, as always, delivers procedural drama that is credible and seems autobiographical. He writes the characters as people first, filled with projected reactions that seem to be literal examples from everyday life. A hostage situation may not be an everyday occurrence, but Rucka gives readers a believably tense situation filled with detail and nuance and then introduces the mystery at the heart of the series. Rucka does not burden the issue with exposition; instead, he chooses to bring the reader along through Rowan's life, giving us little bits of information along the way in an organic manner quite like real personal relationships.
Eric Trautmann is credited with book design, and this issue comes with some extras, but those extras fit. They're not last-minute, back-page filler; they're as much a part of the experience as the twenty-eight pages of comic book story.
Frequently, I find myself wondering what I would read if I wasn't reviewing. "Black Magick" #1 is one of those reads. It's a magnificent offering from Rucka, Scott, Arena, Wynne, Trautmann and editor Jeanine Schaefer, a book so masterfully collaborative it seems as though one creator is responsible for the entire package. Instead, every creator brings their very best and pulls together to give readers a brand new series that is certain to impress.
This isn't Image's next "Saga," or "We Stand on Guard," or "ODY-C" or any of the other titles Image has hit a home run with. This is "Black Magick," and it is exactly everything you might expect at the crossroads where Greg Rucka meets Nicola Scott. The two have crafted a new world around the concept of witches and it's gorgeous, scary and mysterious. I am thrilled to be here.