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. Continue reading

Black Magick 10 Defines its Allegory

by Drew Baumgartner

Black Magick 10

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. Continue reading

Black Magick 9 Keep Rowan in the Dark

by Drew Baumgartner

Black Magick 9

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

Whether it’s Harry Potter or Luke Skywalker, I tend to think of the prototypical fantasy protagonist as being relatively unfamiliar with the strange world they live in. It allows their confusion or surprise at the unexpected to mirror our own, and their ignorance offers a reasonable justification for someone to explain that wizards are real or that the Jedi channel a power called the force. A more knowledgable fantasy protagonist, then, might be hard for an audience to keep up with. I suspect this is how I’d feel about Rowan Black — who is undoubtedly knowledgable about the fantastical elements of her world — if she weren’t on her heels from issue one. She may have knowledge and motives that we don’t fully understand, but she’s just as clueless about what the heck is going on as we are. Indeed, issue 9 might even leave us with more knowledge than she has. Continue reading

Rowan’s Defenses May be Lacking in Black Magick 7

by Drew Baumgartner

Black Magick 7

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

We don’t often talk about procedurals in terms of “putting the pieces in place” — there’s too much directionality to all of the clue finding for the endgame to feel anything other than inevitable. Of course, for all of the procedural elements in Black Magick, it isn’t strictly a procedural. This issue is full of procedural scenes — all showing some degree of cause and effect — from Rowan’s “investigation” into Bruce Dunridge to her (and Alex’s separate) spellcasting, to Stepan Hahn’s own detective work. He’s the noose we’re consciously aware of (especially as the end of the issue puts him on a collision course with Ro), but it’s the procedures we don’t quite see the fallout of that intrigue me most. Continue reading

Black Magick 4

Alternating Currents: Black Magick 4, Drew and Ryan

Today, Drew and Ryan D. are discussing Black Magick 4, originally released January 27th, 2016.

Drew: I’ve been thinking a lot about genre lately. Specifically, how we might define genre as a concept. I tend to think of genre as a checklist of conventions; guns and horses? That’s a western. Period costumes and overly-earnest impressions? That’s a biopic. But every convention you can think of has numerous exceptions, and writers love deconstructing genres, which means there’s no one trait that would actually be true of an entire genre. Instead, “genre” is more of a cloud of possibilities, and any given story’s placement within that genre is a negotiation of the conventions that fit within that cloud and the subversions of those conventions. Why use those conventions at all? There are a number of reasons, but one of the most practical is that those conventions work as a shorthand — we don’t need the concepts of interrogation rooms or fortresses of solitude explained to us, even though we’ve never experienced them ourselves. This allows writers to skip ahead to the subversions, showing us what’s unique about this particular genre story. We all know what’s unique about Greg Rucka and Nicola Scott’s Black Magick (it’s right there in the name), but issue 4 is the first to hint at just how different that might make this story. Continue reading

Black Magick 1

Alternating Currents: Black Magick 1, Drew and Michael

Today, Drew and Michael are discussing Black Magick 1, originally released October 28th, 2015.

Drew: Police stories tend to be more about cases than about characters. Law and Order is a prime example — the detectives and ADAs mostly serve as charismatic cogs in a machine, only hinting at “character” insofar as they have different manners of speech and dress. Sure, every once in a while you’d be asked to care about someone’s home life, but the fact that it always felt awkward and forced illustrates my point — we only cared that they got the bad guy, not that they were driven into police work by an overbearing father or whatever.

But then there are police stories that manage to make their characters’ psychology a key element of the narrative — The Wire springs immediately to mind, making the wants and habits and vices of its detectives as important to understanding the story as any piece of evidence they might find. Greg Rucka and Ed Brubaker struck a similar balance in their Gotham Central, where the romantic and familial relationships of the characters played key roles. It’s no surprise, then, that Black Magick 1, Rucka’s latest police story, features a detective who is every bit as intriguing as the case she’s called to. Of course, as was often the case with Gotham Central, it may be difficult to separate the character from a case that seems so personal. Continue reading