Horror and fantasy are two genres the go extremely well together, often blending established archetypes and tropes from their respective genres in order to increase terror while also increasing wonder. Manor Black, is the new horror-fantasy series about a family of sorcerers in crisis. Written by horror comics icon Cullen Bunn and Brian Hurtt, with art and colors by Tyler Crook, the team, who previously worked together on Harrow County create a beautifully dark start to a story in Manor Black #1.
Manor Black #1 opens with a mysterious figure causing an even more mysterious and violent car wreck. Right out of the gate, Bunn’s world-building begins, seeding questions that pull you in. But for the bulk of the story, we’re introduced to Roman Black the patriarch of the Black family, and he’s close to death. With impending death, the powerful family of sorcerers is looking for the elder Black to make his choice on a descendant.
As his wicked and corrupt children fight over who will take the reins of Manor Black, the large house that I hope becomes its own character, and become representative of the black arts. But instead of moving to choose one his own, Roman adopts a young mage unrelated to him, with the hope that someone truly good will takes his place.
While the story synopsis shared from Dark Horse maps out a lot of the Manor Black #1 and offers more information than we know in the issue – specifically that young girl we follow at the end is a mage – Bunn’s writing weaves a narrative that only heightens with the extra information. Currently writing the body horror-filled Unearth for Image Comics, Black Manor is more subtle, opting into a Lovecraftian style of writing, one where the magic is commonplace. Where Unearth is an homage to old school body shock, Manor Black is filled with gothic magic in Bunn’s writing Crooks’ art and colors accentuate.
Manor Black is magical and filled with an air of gothic romance even when there is a focus on emaciated ghastly corpses. Crook paints the panels in browns, greens, greys, and reds and yet, it never feels muddied. His work is clear and the pops of red accent the mood while also showcasing both a ghostly glow and the damning harsh red lights from a police vehicle. While the gothic horror style sings off of the page, it’s the fire that comes into play that wields mystery while also moving into more traditional scares.
I am in love with Bunn and Crook as a team. As a horror nerd who eats, sleeps, and breathes the genre, the subtlety of building dread while infusing it with magic is right up my alley and an example of how strong the series starts. In Manor Black #1, we get broad brushstrokes of the characters to come, and I want to know so much more. Since this issue is a number one, it does its job. Manor Black #1 has laid the building blocks for a dark world that I’m excited to fall into.
Manor Black #1 will be available wherever comics are sold on July 31, 2019.
Kate is co-founder, EIC, and CCO of BWT. She’s also a Certified Rotten Tomatoes Critic, host, and creator of our flagship podcast, But Why Tho? and Did You Have To?. She also manages all PR relationships for comics, manga, film, TV, and anime. She has an MA in Cultural Anthropology and Religious Studies focusing on how pop culture impacts society.