Publisher: Image Comics
Writer: Greg Rucka
Artist: Nicola Scott
Release Date: 30 December 2015
Described as ‘gothic-noir’ by Image Comics, Black Magick, a five-part series collectively titled Awakening, is penned by Greg Rucka and combines a dark police procedural with neo-pagan, occult overtones. Rowan Black is a homicide Detective by day and a Wiccan by night, until her two lives collide in an investigation that leads straight to her, prompting questions about her past, powers and the world of witchcraft that she belongs to.
Unlike many other offerings in the crime/thriller genre, Rucka’s prose resists the formulaic characters and dialogue of the detective drama. His dialogue is realistically structured, which serves to steer the plot at a measured pace while revealing just enough detail to colour the characters and their relationships, specifically in the case of Black. Whereas the initial two comics introduced Black’s two worlds, both governed by rules and regulations that often conflict with one another, the latest instalment delves further into the dark threat that is pulling Black, reluctantly, into her magical past. Few questions are answered, and what little exposition we have surrounding Black in this episode generates even more, but this only adds to the intrigue surrounding her character’s shadowy past and solitary lifestyle.
Rucka’s research is meticulous as always-he read every book on witchcraft that he could find-and this knowledge informs his writing in a mature and realistic way; the neo-pagan elements of the story are introduced in a subtle manner, without verbose explanation, that doesn’t detract from the gritty, realistic world of criminal investigation. In fact, the Wiccan phrases and iconography instead provide a tantalising glimpse into this world for the reader; Rucka respects the intelligence of the audience-even including a few pages that are written in German-and the resulting intricacy of his writing encourages further research into the subject of the occult. Rucka’s dedication to detail is revealed in an additional contribution to the series, an original piece of prose in the form of a serialised diary entry. Referencing Heinrich Kramer’s (and possibly Jacob Sprenger’s, depending whose account one reads) Malleus Maleficarum (Hammer of the Witches) from 1486, the German publication that became synonymous with the persecution of men and women throughout Europe who were accused as witches, the diary is written by Gilles Robert du Pont-L’Évêque in the late 1500s and provides further insight into the historical relationship between witchcraft and the church.
Within Black Magick, Rucka’s words are greatly enhanced by the stunning artwork of Nicola Scott, which never serves to disappoint. Her rendering of the characters in particular is both incredibly distinctive and detailed. Presented in cold blue chiarascuro tones, which were accomplished by Scott and Chiara Arena, the shading works to sculpture Scott’s world beautifully. The magical strands of the story are visualised in cosmic colours and when this occurs, against the muted background, light appears to literally shine from the page; Black Magick is beautifully written and a joy to look at.
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The writer of this piece was: Rebecca Booth
Rebecca Tweets from @rebeccalbooth