Written by Sam Humphries
Art by Jen Bartel
Colors by Triona Farrell
Lettering by Jodi Wynne
If you grew up as a shy bookish kid, you probably spent a lot of time hoping magic was secretly real, and one day this would be revealed to you. In Blackbird this idea is explored with the twist that the magic is not the cozy world of wonder from Harry Potter, but instead a very cool and pretty scary realm.
In Blackbird, Nina’s sister has been taken by a magical creature, and no one in Nina’s fairly depressing life will believe her. And unlike plucky heroic characters in other fictional pieces, Nina is more into unhealthy coping strategies than grand plans to save her sister. Although she eventually realises that she should, given that she’s been trying to prove magic is real for most of her life.
Blackbird is a comic that really celebrates the industry’s colorists. The use of color in this comic is brilliant. The jewel tones of the magical world, the muted tones of Nina’s personal life and the warm colors of her memories are all so compelling. And Jen Bartel’s character design is brilliant. I love the intricate haircuts and well-thought out outfits. There have been several comics I’ve read in recent weeks where characters haircuts are so inconsistent between panels, and outfits make no sense (looking at you Elvira). But Jen Bartel’s characters never have this problem, they are not merely vessels for dialogue, they’re fully formed people and/or wizards.
It would be remiss not to draw some comparison to the Wicked and the Divine and Blackbird. There is definitely a similarity in world building: magical, powerful characters who hang out in the hippest bars and care about the latest sneakers. But without Gillen’s dense lore and scripting, this seems like a more fun version of what I always hoped Wic+Div would be. There is also a heavy nod to Saga’s famous Lying Cat, in the form of Nina’s childhood cat Sharpie, who appears to only be able to tell lies.
But don’t let those similarities fool you, Blackbird is laying the foundations of a robust story and is promising to be a powerhouse of a series in its own right. I would not be surprised if Blackbird becomes the comic people start recommending to their non-comics reading friends, the way Saga and the Wicked and the Divine appear to have been for several years.
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