Dark Horse Comics
(w) Evan Dorkin (a/c) Veronica Fish & Andy Fish (l) Greg McKenna
If there is one thing I love as much as comics, it’s puns. So what’s better than a comic with a pun in it’s title? I had seen Blackwood when writing Veronica Fish & Andy Fish names up for my 2019’s best artist. Their names alone made me want to read the series. Yet, when I saw the title of the follow up series, Blackwood: The Mourning After #1 I knew I needed to fast track my backlog.
To be brief, and for my own personal ease, we’ll call it Blackwood: MA #1 from here on out.
Blackwood: MA #1 is a direct continuation of the first series, taking place following the death of Dean Ogden and Dennis (hence the title). That in mind, if you haven’t read the first series you’d be missing out on a mass amount of lore, character building, deaths, and a great story. Unlike other comics that give themselves a subtitle and number “1” for a new story that needs no backstory, Blackwood: MA #1 requires you to know the characters. This is for the better as writer Evan Dorkin has no need to reintroduce or catch readers up.
Instead, Dorkin picks the story up the morning after the deaths. From here he gives the reader a basic rundown on how some learn magic by the ever tired new Dean, Russell Colby. Colby as a teacher (and now a Dean) continues to thrive as one of the most relatable characters. His demeanor alone is one not seen much in the magic/fantasy genre. At times you can tell he once had a love for the magic happenings in this world, but now he seems drained like he’s been doing this way too long. That tired feeling he exudes is one many adults can relate too.
Originally going into the first series of Blackwood, it seemed the story would revolve around Wren Valentine as a singular character and the new kids she’s grouped with. Yet, once finished Dorkin showcased why it was titled Blackwood and Blackwood: MA instead of Wren and Friends. Granted each character is charming in their own rights while pushing the story forward in fun ways, the plot instead hinges more on the terrifying College. This is even more apparent in Blackwood: MA #1 where even though these characters play fun parts, the school and its rich history and mystery play an even bigger one. This is where The Fish’s fantastically detailed art comes in.
One of the best aspects of Archie Comics’ newest Sabrina series was the amazingly magical art by Veronica & Andy Fish. While reading that teenage witches adventure I thought of how well the duo’s art melded into the fantasy realm. It seems that wasn’t just a one time feeling, as the Fish’s vibrant style works perfectly in Blackwood: MA #1. On top of a gorgeous eye-bending color palette, the team packs in a myriad of smaller details throughout. This attention to detail can be seen in multiple backgrounds that take place in the school, giving the reader a sense of reality. The Dean’s office which is destroyed from the previous series feels as if it was lived in before getting destroyed. Yet, the “smaller” details aren’t just regulated to background objects.
In some instances the Fish’s have characters react with funny gestures/faces to what is transpiring on the page. These subtle moments speaks in volume for the characters while making Blackwood: MA #1 feel that more real. Plus the amount of smaller details in the Printers Devil with all the magic signs on it is awesome. The duo’s line work continues to impress while their colors are still some of the best. Each color pops off the page in a brilliant spectacle of a magical palette. Nonetheless, the duo doesn’t keep everything magically bright. In some instances, they put a damper on the bright spots, yet this only amplifies the page.
McKenna’s letters work in perfect conjunction with the rest of the team. Throughout Blackwood: MA #1 McKenna makes sure no dialogue bubble/box ever gets in the way of the art. Not only that, but he makes sure the area he places them in makes sense flow wise. The first page (shown above) exemplifies this. McKenna elegantly forces the eyes to go into a certain motion that guides the reader to take in all of the art in the panel.
Memorable Quote: “Of course Blackwood’s haunted. Restaurants have roaches. Occult Schools have Ghosts.” -Dean Colby.
Although that is a hilarious line, it sorta makes sense and is a good line in itself.
Side Note: Big high-five to Dark Horse Comics for adding the Letterer’s name on the cover! Sadly that doesn’t happen all the time, so seeing that was pretty awesome!