(W) Sam Humphries (A) Jen Bartel (C) Nayoung Wilson & Jen Bartel
As I read Blackbird #1, the Beatles song of the same name kept playing over and over again in my head. Paul McCartney closes out the White Album track with the repeated line “you were always waiting for this moment to arrive,” a pitch perfect parallel to the journey that Nina – the book’s protagonist – experiences throughout this first issue. As readers wait for Nina’s moment to arrive, the story from Sam Humphries and Jen Bartel keeps readers fully engaged from start to finish.
The art by Jen Bartel is absolutely stunning. It immediately catches the reader’s attention thanks to an eye-popping cover that makes use of bright, vibrant colors. This is a trend that carries on throughout the issue, as Bartel and collaborator Nayoung Wilson fill this magic-based issue with bright, neon shades. Bartel’s linework is also well done, with strong character renderings and attention to detail. But at the end, it all comes back to the colors. Whether it’s a magical creature, a paragon, or well placed instances of onomatopoeia, Bartel and Wilson’s varied and vibrant palette keeps the reader stimulated and engaged from cover to cover.
Even if the artwork wasn’t stimulating, the script from Sam Humphries is. From the get-go, readers are instantly pulled into this fantastical world with a very real-world tragedy. We are immediately introduced to Nina as she undergoes a formative experience in her youth that will shape who she becomes as an adult. Unfortunately, the person she becomes is, in the eyes of others, a freeloading pariah who’s a little crazy. She’s abused painkillers, can barely hold a job, and is forced to sleep on her sister’s couch because there’s nowhere else to go. She is, by all means, a complete wreck. But despite her personal problems, she is a very sympathetic character thanks to Humphries’ script.
In many stories such as this, the protagonist discovers whatever fantastical storytelling element later in life, when their character has already formed. Humphries and Bartel wisely avoid that trope, which makes Nina a character readers can root for. She’s not a character that has been a jerk her entire life for no reason whatsoever only to suddenly have this new world thrust upon her. Such characters are a dime-a-dozen, and although putting someone through a transformative experience is a tried-and-true formula, it doesn’t bring anything new to the table. Nina, on the other hand, has been aware of the existence of magic her whole life. We know she is right, and can sympathize when no one believes her. When the magic returns to her life, she is vindicated.
I didn’t know a single thing about Blackbird #1 before picking it up, but buy the end I was hungry for more. The world that Humphries and Bartel have crafted is fascinating and full of so much untapped potential. Not since the debut of Saga has a new Image title made me eagerly await the second issue’s release. Blackbird #1 certainly looks to be the start of something special or, dare I say, magical.