Review: BLACKBIRD #1

Written by Sam Humphries
Art by Jen Bartel, Paul Reinwand, Nayoung Wilson, Dylan Todd, and Jodi Wynne
Edited by Jim Gibbons
Published by Image Comics
Release Date: October 3, 2018

Almost everybody wants to or has wanted to escape from the world.  There is a desire in everybody to go in search of magic that we wish existed or sometimes feel is hidden around us. Comic books are the perfect vessel for transporting us to these places. Sam Humphries, Jen Bartel and their talented creative team tap into this common desire in their new book Blackbird. They give this opportunity to Nina, their protagonist, and set her on a journey that may or may not give her access to what she’s been looking for. It’s a classic desire and story that is not only about magic but looks magical as well.

Blackbird takes the trauma of our real world and uses it to make the magic shine brightly. It works perfectly.  Humphries makes Nina immediately relatable to almost any reader. She is damaged, confused, and tired. Life is oppressive, and she uses drugs to find moments of respite just as we all do in some shape or form. It will be interesting to see if magic now becomes her drug to escape reality or will it be a talent that she cultivates to change her life.  Making a character so readily relatable not only creates a likeability between the reader and protagonist it, maybe more importantly, directly involves the reader. Now it is not just Nina going through these situations but also the reader in her place. It places us in this world were magic may be possible. The story that Humphries is creating, so far, is much like many other “magic does exist” story and that is ok because this is what readers love. They want to hope and believe that there is something more than just our reality. He has done an excellent job of presenting the reader with a number of mysteries that hooks the reader but still leaving them clueless as to what is really going on. He has given the reader than first step through the looking glass, or down the rabbit hole, or into the wardrobe. Beyond that the story has a very fairy-tale storybook quality to it. The way that it is paced and how the story is told by Nina ties into childhood memories of a magical story time and journey to another world. There is a beautiful innocence to Nina’s damaged existence.

Driving that storybook feeling home is Jen Bartel’s beautiful artwork paired with Paul Reinwand’s layouts. Bartel’s idealistic style is the perfect match for this story. In some ways her rendition of the real world almost seems more fairy tale like and the magical world becomes the reality that we are to believe in. Life is but a dream? Her designs for the magical creatures that Nina runs into are complex, detailed and look sharper than reality. It gives this other world a very dangerous feel to it and makes the real world tempting and safe to stay in. It seems that only in childhood fairy tales is the magic of other worlds safer. Bartel’s art focuses heavily on the eyes of her characters and in turn their souls. She is able to communicate Nina’s feelings with ease to the reader. When the characters look “at” the reader there is an entrancing moment that is hard to escape from. Bartel also does a fantastic job at character interaction. These aren’t just a couple of shapes in one panel. They feel like living people truly reacting and interacting with one another.

Nayoung Wilson and Bartel’s colors are the icing on the cake. The rendition of the colors breath magic into the images and keep the readers eyes glued to the page. It almost feels like in some instances they have created some new color that didn’t exist before and the readers eyes are like sponges wanting to soak it all in. It’s gorgeous and even if the writing wasn’t there this issue would be worth buying just for the art of the color. They make excellent use of contrasting colors and tones to cause moments and characters stand out. As with most illustrations of magic, lighting makes up an important part and the glow of symbols, individuals, and creatures aptly leap off the page. The reader may question if they are actually holding in their hands and a magicians book.

Jodi Wynne letters Blackbird beautifully. It is easily readable and gives inflection where needed. Wynne creates a magical feel for otherworldly voices and magical commands. Sound effects stand out and blend in with the atmosphere of the book without being too “comic book-y.” Dylan Todd provides equally appropriate and eye pleasing design work for the issue.

Overall Blackbird is a beautiful and without a doubt a magical success. An impressive team was put together and as a result equally impressive work was produced. Readers will eagerly look forward to the future issues of Blackbird and the world that the creative team has brought to life.

The Verdict: 9.0/10

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