The world can be hard and unpredictable, but nothing eases the nerves like a bit of pulp fiction. Whether you’re stressed out or just need a break, a little bit of noir goes a long way. Luckily we have plenty of noir to go around in Black Magick: The First Book of Shadows from Image Comics. Written by Greg Rucka, art by Nicola Scott, colors by Chiara Arena, and lettering by Jodi Wynne, this gorgeous hardcover collects the first eleven issues of the hardboiled series.
Detective Rowan Black has a lot going on these days. Life as a detective with the Portsmouth PD is vexing at the best of times but when you’re also a centuries-old witch, things tend to spiral out of control very quickly. When a mad gunman holds a diner hostage and demands to speak to her alone, Black finds herself embroiled in a case that challenges the laws of magick and man. And if that weren’t enough, an ancient order of Witch Hunters have set their sights on one Detective Black. To survive, Black must draw upon all of her lifetimes to solve this mystery before it consumes her in its flames.
The “occult detective” is one of those ubiquitous archetypes that never seem to drop in popularity. From Abraham Van Helsing to John Constantine, supernatural investigators just seem to work. Everyone loves a mystery, after all and if the person solving it happens to breathe fire or drink blood, so much the better. The challenge in crafting a satisfying occult detective lies not in finding a subgenre to mashup, but in creating a character with something to say. Any gumshoe can solve a mystery, but only the good ones can make it mean something.
Thankfully, Black Magick’s detective Rowan Black has a lot to say. Writer Greg Rucka has a long history writing detective fiction with female leads, and with Black Magick: The First Book of Shadows HC he pulls out all the stops. The dialogue in the book feels utterly organic. Rucka’s characters talk like they’re reacting to what we see on the page rather than talking on it. The result zings with easy kinetic energy that keeps you turning the page.
As for our detective, Rowan Black is one of my favorites in recent history. She has the honest heart of the best detectives, but unlike the stubbled P.I.s you find in most pulp fiction, she has an actual support system. Both Rowan’ coven sister Alex and her police partner Morgan take the spotlight for sections of the book and both make it the richer for their presence.
Black Magick weaves between magical threats and mundane crime with ease, finding the critical balance between “occult” and “detective”. The result is an 11 chapter book that flies by. Time passes quickly when you’re reading a fascinating character after all.
And of course, that’s just the writing. Nicola Scott’s grayscale imbues Black Magick: The First Book of Shadows HC with potent noir energy that doesn’t dwell in the shadows. For a world of where witches craft spells in pursuit of justice, it makes sense that everything appears in shades of grey. Everything that is, but Magick. In one of the series’ most striking moves, acts of Magick appears on the page in brilliant technicolor. Colorist Chiara Arena renders these highlights beautifully, maximizing the otherworldly aura of every panel.
If you love stories about private eyes who go bump in the night, Black Magick: The First Book of Shadows HC is a must read. It’s spooky, satisfying, and just what the Goddess ordered. Check it out, it might just cast a spell on you. So mote it be.
Black Magick: The First Book of Shadows
If you love stories about private eyes who go bump in the night, Black Magick: The First Book of Shadows HC is a must read. It’s spooky, satisfying, and just what the Goddess ordered