by Drew Baumgartner
This article contains SPOILERS. If you haven’t read the issue yet, proceed at your own risk!
[W]e conceive the Devil as a necessary part of a respectable view of cosmology. Ours is a divided empire in which certain ideas and emotions and actions are of God, and their opposites are of Lucifer. It is as impossible for most men to conceive of a morality without sin as of an earth without ‘sky’. Since 1692 a great but superficial change has wiped out God’s beard and the Devil’s horns, but the world is still gripped between two diametrically opposed absolutes. The concept of unity, in which positive and negative are attributes of the same force, in which good and evil are relative, ever-changing, and always joined to the same phenomenon — such a concept is still reserved to the physical sciences and to the few who have grasped the history of ideas.
Arthur Miller, The Crucible
I don’t think I fully appreciated The Crucible until this last year. Or, more precisely, without any direct reference for McCarthyism, I couldn’t fully appreciate the allegory that underpins The Crucible. That we once again live in a world where problems can be made up and pinned on innocent individuals gives The Crucible an unfortunately renewed relevance, suggesting once again that we haven’t come as far from 1690s Salem as we might like to think. Black Magick 10 carries a similar allegorical weight, also centering around the persecution of witches, with the obvious difference that the witches in Black Magick actually exist. In this way, the parallels to our modern political climate (and, heck, that of McCarthyism) might be stronger — the persecuted class does actually exist, they just aren’t the scapegoats society has made them out to be. It reflects the attitudes that politicizes someone’s very identity, suggesting that peace and happiness should only be reserved for those who conform to society’s norms.
To put a finer point on it: this issue draws parallels between magic and homosexuality. It’s not a huge leap — to quote The Crucible again, “sex, sin, and the Devil were early linked” — but it’s one that Greg Rucka and Nicola Scott take great care to convey subtly. First up is the close relationship between Rowan and Alex.
To be clear: nothing in this issue or series has suggested that their relationship is anything other than platonic (or even sisterly). Ultimately, whether or not they actually hook up is entirely irrelevant to the allegory, as their closeness stems from their identity, and they are vilified for that identity. We can understand that as reflecting gayness even if they’re not actually gay.
But that point is really driven home as Alex goes to confront Laurent Leveque, the Aira agent who broke into Rowan’s home at the end of the previous issue.
Alex’s line, “if I’m going to be executed for who I am…” makes it clear what we’re talking about, but the most telling element is Laurent’s casualness about this conflict. He can paint her position as hysterical while his literally centers around the extermination of her people. His dressed-up-as-civil position is that she is a sub-human disease. It’s an approach that has been common throughout history — bigotry dressed up as civility — but has become increasingly familiar over the past few years.
I’ll admit, it’s not a turn I saw coming for this series, which already had a crackerjack (if a bit more predictable) “cop with a secret” thing going, but it puts Alex and Rowan in an interesting position as their true enemies reveal themselves at the end of the issue. Will they ally themselves with the people that deny their humanity just to stop a bigger threat? Suddenly, this magic-infused procedural is offering some of the most incisive political commentary in all of comicsdom. I can’t think of a better creative team to wield that kind of allegory, so this revelation is a welcome one, even if I regret the position it puts Rowan and Alex in.
The conversation doesn’t stop there. What do you wanna talk about from this issue?