Review – Black Magick Vol 3: Ascension I TP (Image Comics)

Publisher: Image Comics
Writer: Greg Rucka
Artist: Nicola Scott
Colourist: Jodi Wynne
Letterer: Chiara Arena
Release Date: 27th January 2021

The lines between friend and foe continue to blur for Rowan Black and Alexandra Grey as the Demons keep playing their games and a rogue Aira agent plots to end the line of witches for good. Rowan continues to struggle with the boundaries between her life and work, facing betrayal and heartbreak from those she holds dear, and events will ultimately conspire to make her face/forget her fears and unleash the fullest realisation of her powers… but at what cost to herself and her friends?

Reading Black Magick is a bittersweet experience for me. I remember being hugely excited about this title back in early 2016 when I picked up the first volume, but then during the long wait for volume 2 I’ll admit that I pretty much completely forgot it existed. When the second volume came out in May 2018 I rapidly rediscovered my love for Greg Rucka and Nicola Scott’s occult/supernatural thriller, but then once again found myself facing the long, long wait for volume 3.

January 2021 finally brings us the third volume, and it is fantastic, but my excitement is very much tempered with the knowledge that we’re probably going to be looking at another excruciating wait for volume 4 to appear.

Black Magick is a great series. It’s superbly well written and the artwork is to die for, but when you realise that it has taken five years(!) to release the 16 issues that comprise the three volumes we have had so far, it stretches the attention span of even the most diehard fan, and this is what, for me, stops this from being a truly exceptional reading experience. It takes the enjoyment out of reading something knowing that it has been so long since you last visited the story, to the point where you find yourself having to go back and start from the beginning each time a new chapter is released.  This frustrating situation really does a disservice to the work that Rucka, Scott, Wynne and Arena have put into this series so far.

Having done a quick Google search earlier (other search engines are available), I realised that I have been reading Greg Rucka’s stories for over 20 years, having picked up Whiteout when it first came out back in 1998. It is safe therefore to say that I am very much a fan, and the writing on Black Magick only reinforces my love of his writing. This series is unusual (in a good way) in that it is very much focused on the female perspective without being derivative or immature. The balance of power is very much matriarchal, with the male characters being much more cast in the role you’d typically see women in (1990s comics, I’m looking at you).

The men are exaggeratedly beautiful and chiselled (take detective Chaffey as an example, or even the surprisingly buff bookworm Laurent), and in many ways subservient to the female characters who, and lets be fair there are many beautiful female characters in this series, are portrayed as much more real and believable. Nicola Scott does a great job of giving us female characters that aren’t all supermodels, and who we can actually identify with as human beings with souls and flaws and fears and hopes.

There are scenes of nudity in this series – yes, they are few and far between, and they are mostly restricted to the Sabbat rituals of the coven – but they’re delivered in a way that is refreshingly unselfconscious, and while there are even depictions of sex within these Sabbats, they are also delivered in such a way that completely removes the teenage schoolboy giggling and cheap titillation that are sadly commonplace in a lot of similar publications.

Female empowerment and nudity aside, this is a very good thriller with some superb tension and pacing throughout. I really enjoy the way the more mundane (if you can call it that) aspects of Rowan’s life as a homicide detective are woven through with the supernatural/occult reality of her life. I like that being the “supreme witch” aside, Rowan is very much a detective, and her job and the cases she’s working on are as much a part of the story as her Wiccan self. Rucka proved to us that he can write taut thrillers over 20 years ago with the aforementioned Whiteout, and the decades since have only honed that ability, giving us a story that, despite the agonising wait between issues, hooks you in and keeps you turning page after page.

Nicola Scott’s artwork has been fantastic since the first issue and continues to be so here, and I absolutely love Jodi Wynne’s use of colour throughout which is sparse and mainly used for some superb highlights. There is nothing I can fault in the art whatsoever.

As a series, Black Magick is superb, and volume 3 is a solid addition to the continuing story. But – and it’s a big BUT – Image has a history of really erratic and protracted scheduling. For example, I’ve been waiting almost four years for Southern Cross volume 3, and we’re coming up on two years waiting for Redlands volume 3. Because of this, it’s difficult to maintain enthusiasm and interest in the title, no matter how great it is.

There’s no denying that Image publish some amazing content, but it seems to me that either they can’t get the commitment from the creators to produce to a set timescale, or they have the attention span of a toddler, always looking at the next shiny thing that catches their eye. While it’s great that they’re always looking to tell new stories, the slew of unfinished titles that are mouldering in the wake of this approach is becoming increasingly frustrating.

With all that said, Black Magick remains for me a solid 4/5 title. I just wish new issues were coming out more consistently.

Rating: 4/5.


The writer of this piece was: Mark Scott
Mark Tweets from @macoy_comicgeek ‏

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