Black Magick #7
BLACK MAGICK #7 BY GREG RUCKA AND NICOLA SCOTT
Art
Plot
Characterization
Summary
Greg Rucka's BLACK MAGICK #7 is a hard book for new readers to immerse themselves in. However, fans of the Urban Fantasy genre will easily enjoy the weighty plot and the beautiful art by Nicola Scott.
80 %
Magic is Real
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To be wholly honest, Urban Fantasy is my go-to genre. The snarky magical detectives and the modern cities infested with creatures of the night… Urban Fantasy takes what works about magical superheroism and gives it a cynical, often serious, makeover. However, no one can really say that it’s ever realistic. Dark tones belie high-intensity battles and massive set pieces. The Dresden Files novels and comics by Jim Butcher, for example, once featured a highly destructive battle with a giant tree monster in the gardening department of a chain store. Urban Fantasy is typically all about the “Wow!” factor. BLACK MAGICK #7 from Greg Rucka and Nicola Scott is anything but typical, and for that, I am eternally grateful.

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BLACK MAGICK #7 opens the “Awakening II” story arc. Portsmouth detective Rowan Black has a secret. Rowan comes from a long line of occult practitioners. She is a witch and a powerful one at that. In the previous story arc, a mysterious group known as the Hammer attempted to use Rowan’s power for their own gain. Rowan and her fellow witch, Alex, were able to stop their machinations, but not before Rowan killed one of their agents. Her partner, Morgan, has seen the evidence of the murder, and some part of him knows Rowan was involved in the crime. Suspecting she’s a murderer, Morgan has his eyes on her. Magic can do a lot in Rucka’s mystical world, but as the issue closes on Rowan and Alex’s rituals, the question must be asked: can it save Rowan from her own mistakes?

Dipping into the Urban Side

Black Magick #7
Courtesy of Image Comics

This issue was my entry point into Greg Rucka’s fantasy world. To say I was confused is an understatement. I’m never afraid to jump into a series part way through. Each issue, each chapter, should be able to stand on its own and add to the collected product. Many writers, like Charles Soule in CURSE WORDS, nail the exposition to indoctrinate new readers. Rucka struggles in this department.

BLACK MAGICK #7 requires a prior knowledge of all things Rowan Black to get a full experience. At the very opening of the issue, a man mumbling the “Our Father” in German digs up a grave, cuts open a corpse and pulls three little green pills from the dead person’s belly. Why? I don’t wholly know. Why does Black steal a zippo lighter from evidence? My best guess is that she wants to hide her involvement in a murder, but there is no exposition in this issue.

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The characterization, too, faltered because of this confusion. Rucka assumes the reader knows who Rowan Black and her partner are and that we are aware of their life stories. Jumping blindly into the heart of the series and seeing their currently tenuous relationship has no context. One of the reasons this approach falls so flat is that there are no thought bubbles, no exposition. There are entire pages without text. While I normally applaud the use of the visual medium, I was dying to know what happens inside Rowan Black’s head. Instead, we got a plot, an investigation, and an occult ritual that ends in a raging inferno. Without context or thoughts behind the main characters, it was difficult to find a foothold in this world. Urban Fantasy is all about the cunning lead characters, but BLACK MAGICK #7 never quite sold Rowan Black.

The Fantasy of BLACK MAGICK #7

Black Magick #7
Courtesy of Image Comics

With all of that said, I still really enjoyed BLACK MAGICK #7. I felt lost, and like I couldn’t connect to the main characters in this one issue. However, where that would typically turn me away from a story, it only inspired me to read more. I immediately looked up where to find the first six issues of the series and am planning on reading them this upcoming weekend.

One of the reasons for this intrigue is Nicola Scott’s stunning artistry. Scott does every page by hand in BLACK MAGICK #7, with very little collaborative work. Her style is highly detailed and realistic. Every page is beautifully textured in a charcoal-esque finish, and the book is layered in shades of gray. Whenever color appears on the page, it shocks and excites. More importantly, these colors are hints toward the grand, strange world of BLACK MAGICK. Each colored object seems to be somehow magical in nature, ending with the magical inferno at the end. This art style perfectly captures the tone of the piece.

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As I said, BLACK MAGICK #7 seems to excise the tonal clichés of the Urban Fantasy genre. While Rowan and Morgan share some personal banter in the police cruiser, the overall tone feels more serious. It is also nuanced with beats from dark mystery stories, and the dialogue rarely seems lighthearted. More importantly, it feels grounded in reality. A letter at the issue’s end from an IRL occult practitioner applauds the series on its true to life occult roots. This addition is a huge bonus to the story, as it creates a sense of weight.

Also, despite the shortcomings in transitioning new readers, Rucka’s plot is deftly entertaining. While little happens in this issue, the investigation and ritual are steeped in intrigue and open the door to further story beats. I want to catch up on this series so that I can start predicting where it will go from here.

FINAL THOUGHTS

BLACK MAGICK #7 was a strange beast of a comic book. Though the plot, dialogue, and art are some of the best I have seen, acclimating to Rucka’s world felt like a bit of a chore. For long time fans of the series, this is a definite, one hundred percent recommendation. But for fans of Urban Fantasy or noir-like detective comics, I’d suggest jumping into Greg Rucka’s world with the opening chapters. As an aesthetic experience, BLACK MAGICK #7 astounds. However, I simply wish Rucka had eased new readers into the experience.

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