Cover image for Black Magick

In Awakening, the first volume of Black Magick, a mystery is brewing in Portsmouth, where Rowan Black is a police detective and a witch. Sometimes these responsibilities encroach upon each other, but usually one informs the other. Rowan is called away by her police captain in the middle of her coven’s meeting due to a unexpected hostage situation in town, at a local burger place…and the man holding the employees hostage is asking for Rowan Black by name. This is only the first of several strange and violent occurrences, adding up to something our detective cannot quite figure out yet. This first volume is an awakening of something evil gaining power in Portsmouth, and we only get a glimpse of it on the very last page.

The art is all done in grayscale, surprisingly vivid and beautifully shaded. Very few things have color to them—lit candles within a pentagram, a cursed flame, the barest hint of a blush across Rowan’s cheeks—all things with a magical element to them. Scott’s art style is realistic and true to life. The faces of the characters capture an intensity of emotions without looking overdramatic or seeming abrupt in changing from panel to panel. The art is natural enough to feel as if you are watching a TV series,seamlessly flowing with the writing. At times speech is sparse in the book and Scott’s art confidently carries the action through each scene without the assistance of narrative text. The slow building of suspense in the writing is complemented by the amount of detail drawn into each scene. The realistic art style is much appreciated in the treatment of nude or semi-clothed characters. These characters are neither sexualized nor objectified, but are treated respectfully in Scott’s style.

Though we’ve seen relatively little of their lives, we are already beginning to see the tensions and relationships between the characters introduced. Rowan’s partner is Detective Morgan. Morgan’s wife Anna is pregnant with their first child, and confides to Rowan that she is nervous that something will happen to her husband while he’s on the job. Alex, the leader of Rowan’s coven, is also a grade school teacher. She acts as Rowan’s other partner, offering her witchy abilities to try to explain some of the mysteries in the strange cases Rowan encounters. The development of the story creates a foreshadowing sense that these details about their lives will become important later in the story. In the meantime, we are presented with realistic characters who lead interesting lives, and a growing sense of concern for their safety and well-being. Though it’s a short volume, Rucka creates a thorough and well-planned introduction to our cast of characters and setting which would make any reader eager to continue.

The first volume of Black Magick collects the first five single issues which add up to a rather slim volume of about 130 pages. While this volume is good at building suspense, establishing the setting, and introducing our key characters, much of the story serves as a set up for greater action yet to come. Awakening is a promising start, but only a taste of what Rucka and Scott seem to have in store for the series.

Which brings us to the unfortunate news—this is a series that is currently on hiatus. This is not an unfamiliar problem to readers of Image Comics, and Rucka and Scott are both working on some other interesting and exciting series right now. Unfortunately for budding fans of the series, Rucka announced at the end of March that the next single issue of Black Magick is delayed until April 2017. Estimating a similar publishing schedule for volume 2, that means that library readers will likely not be able to keep reading until at least October 2017—though hopefully Image will be able to release volume 2 in time for Halloween.

For an occult story with a female lead, there are countless read-alikes. Black Magick would appeal to fans of Rachel Rising, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Locke and Key, and adult fans of Jill Thompson. Librarians may find themselves needing to use these recommendations to comfort their patrons through the hiatus.

Librarians wishing to add this book to their collection should be aware of the following content warnings: [non-sexual] nudity, swearing, gore, some violence, and of course, witchcraft.

Black Magick, vol. 1: Awakening
by Greg Rucka
Art by Nicola Scott
ISBN: 9781632156754
Image, 2016
Publisher Age Rating: M (Mature)

  • Maria Aghazarian

    Past Reviewer

    Maria Aghazarian is a librarian at Swarthmore College and the Lower Merion library system, in the stretch of southeastern Pennsylvania otherwise known as the “greater Philadelphia area.” Her love of graphic novels started with manga in middle school, but exploded after graduating college when she learned that superheroes aren’t the be-all and end-all of comics. She aims to support small and independent presses, and manufacturers of sturdy bookcases.

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