Review – Black Cloak #1 (Image Comics)

Publisher: Image Comics
Writer: Kelly Thomson
Artwork: Meredith McClaren
Lettering: Becca Carey
Release Date: 11th January 2023

“The City of Kiros… The last city in the known world.”

Imagine a modern world, but one very far removed from ours. Hundreds of years have passed since the world-ending war and a peace, albeit tenuous and grudging, remains after the defeat of the Great Evil. Fairies and elves mingle with centaurs, faun, and gaseous beings in crime-ridden slums whilst down in the lagoon below, hungry, predatory merfolk lie in waiting. As far as concepts go, I’m all-in. I could draw parallels with other media which may have been inspiration fodder, but honestly, this stands strong enough on its own that to do so would be a disservice.

Detective Phaedra Essex is a Black Cloak, an investigator of crimes for the Kiros Police Dept., if not necessarily a keeper of the peace. Granted respect, of sorts, and a wide berth along with the other Black Cloaks, her day starts off probably like any other. The death of a member of the Royal Family, found in a flophouse room under highly suspicious circumstances sparks a series of events which lead from bad to worse and far from typical.

Whilst the fantastical elements might be a hard pill to swallow for some, at its core, Black Cloak is a classic murder mystery. In the tradition of grand, sweeping thriller we’ve got plenty of plot threads to tug, inevitably a number of suspects, and fingers crossed for oodles of twists, turns, and reveals. Thompson does really well to walk a balance between keeping the subject matter from becoming too dense or, potentially worse, being too bright and breezy. The abundance of high fantasy is also navigated more in the showing than telling avoiding the pitfall of unpronounceable name after consonant-filled name.

Speaking of the showing, not telling, I am so glad I got the chance to see more of McClaren’s work here. At first glance, the simple lines and muted colours bely the strength of their ability to convey emotion and character depth. The style is a great fit for the subject matter and keeps this whole book looking and feeling fresh. Full credit too to Carey and their lettering with some standouts such as the mermaids colourful “skreee”; an elegant way to convey the sirens call.

Black Cloak was the first new comic I’ve read in 2023 and I’ll be happy with the bar that this has set. After first read I had to immediately dive in again, not because I felt like I had missed something, but because I enjoyed it so much. Tempering expectations a little, my concern is whether this story will be able to maintain the feel and ‘fantastical’ mystery as the story is revealed. If the team can keep this up, Black Cloak is set to be a book I’ll be happy to keep coming back to.

Rating: 4/5.


The writer of this piece was: Adam Brown
Adam Tweets from @brother_rooster

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