There’s Power Hidden in the Style of Black Magick 11

by Drew Baumgartner

Black Magick 11

This article contains SPOILERS. If you haven’t read the issue yet, proceed at your own risk!

As a medium, comics are limited to two dimensions and single moments in time, but those are really the only limitations. Even so, it can be easy to forget that comics art can be anything but representational, as so many mainstream comics tend to default to some much more restrictive rules. This is particularly strange given the popularity of supernatural or superhuman powers in comics. In a medium with infinite possibilities, these powers tend to be depicted in the same ways, again and again; a hard punch (like, a really hard punch), a big explosion (like, a really big explosion, a massive spaceship (like, a really massive spaceship), etc. It takes a much more thoughtful, much more subtle hand to actually take advantage of the medium’s possibilities to represent the otherworldly, which is exactly what Nicola Scott does in Black Magick 11, cashing in some of the stylistic choices she’s made from the beginning of the series to really sell the magic at hand.

We’ve loved Scott’s inkwashes from the very first issue. For reference, here’s the style we’ve come to expect of the series:

Black Magick art

It’s a style that allows Scott a lot of room for creating depth and form, lending the series a decidedly photorealistic feel.

But what it also does (and what I hadn’t immediately noticed until picking up this issue) is turn the world of Black Magick into a greyscale one. Obviously, I recognized the lack of color (which colorist Chiara Arena reserves only for magic items/spells/individuals), but I hadn’t appreciated the scarcity of true blacks and whites. That snaps into focus as the issue picks up with Rowan and those mysterious intruders at the hospital:

Rowan and the Thing

There are still flourishes of color throughout this scene, but the thing that dazzles me most is how vibrant the blacks and whites of these two figures stand out against the relatively washed-out greyscale of the world around them. Rowan’s black touches (her hair, boots, and jacket) are always present, but her skin takes on the intruder’s piercing whiteness during this sequence, casting her as something different — and far-more-powerful — than we’ve ever assumed. It’s a subtle way of reinforcing the point that writer Greg Rucka makes twice over in this issue’s dialogue: Rowan is immensely powerful, perhaps more than she knows or allows herself to be.

And it really works. When this scene ends and the visuals return to normal, it’s hard for those heretofore richly rendered inkwashes to not fill kind of dingy. Rowan has gotten a taste of that power, and it leaves her world feeling less than it did before. It’s no surprise, then, that those bright whites should return at the end of the issue — Scott and Rucka cocked a Chekhov’s gun in that hospital scene, it just happened to be a stylistic one.

The conversation doesn’t stop there. What do you wanna talk about from this issue?

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