BLACKBIRD #5 by Sam Humphries, Jen Bartel, and Triona Farrell
BLACKBIRD #5 shows Sam Humphries's powerful storytelling using emotion as the theme. Jen Bartel compliments Humphries's writing by illustrating the mood he sets for each scene. She also leaves room to express symbolism. Triona Farrell's coloring plays a part in symbolism as well while continuing to provide lustrous color.
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Sam Humphries brings heavy emotion to his storytelling in BLACKBIRD #5. With a feud between sisters, Nina’s plot for revenge, and reuniting with Clint, Humphries takes the reader on a rollercoaster of emotions. At first we witness high energy and anger between Nina and Marissa then we calm down once Clint’s brought into the picture. Finally, Nina’s plot for revenge inspires us in a sinister way. Humphries develops the plot throughout BLACKBIRD #5 while giving us well-rounded characters. Jen Bartel illustrates the story in perfect sync with Humphries. She articulates his writing well with imagery and scenes that match Humphries’ moods. Bartel and layout artist Paul Reinwand work together best on the very first page. Lastly, Triona Farrell colors panels throughout BLACKBIRD #5 that grab the reader’s attention through symbolism and lustrous color.

Strong and Subtle Plot Development

After a monologue by Nina, Nina and Marissa begin to fight about Gloria choosing Marissa to be with her as a paragon while leaving Nina behind. We start to see that Nina is supposed to be Gloria and Marissa’s enemy. We find out Nina’s plan once she reunites with Clint. Clint takes Nina to the Zon Cabal, where Carter gives Nina a choice. She can either go back to her normal life or go through the process of becoming a paragon. Nina chooses to become a paragon to exact revenge on her mother. Surprisingly, Sharpie the cat ends up being a major catalyst to the story.

All of these plot developments are exciting for the reader. I enjoyed how Humphries created a more complex plot by showing obvious connections between our characters. Nina is in the middle of all of this.

Image courtesy of Image Comics.

Illustrating Being Trapped in Your Own Head

This issue starts off strong with a monologue from Nina. Nina recalls the earthquake her and her family survived through. While Nina’s in her head, Bartel illustrates images from the earthquake and from a couple of things Nina mentions. When Nina mentions magic, Bartel gives us a sparkling, ombre being running infinitely in one direction, dressed in fine clothing. Bartel’s imagery connects with Humphries’s writing by showing how the brain thinks multiple thoughts and how complex these thoughts are. It’s a surreal experience for the reader. They are able to relate to Nina by literally seeing the complexity in being trapped in your own head.

The complexity’s further perpetuated by the illustrations. The page as a whole is presented with no panels. Images are just floating around in a chaotic manner. Anxious thoughts in the human mind aren’t structured, so why would they be structured with panels? This was the carefully crafted choice of Paul Reinwand.

I was deeply moved by being able to see how deep Nina’s thoughts are in this issue. As someone with anxiety that feels overwhelmed when so many thoughts swimming in my head, I find myself relating to her. Nina falling apart on the ground even shows how much weight one’s thoughts can have. This scene was so powerful.

Anger and Resentment in BLACKBIRD #5

There are a lot of emotions between characters in BLACKBIRD #5 that are strong and sometimes touching. These emotional elements help make the reader feel the emotional connections between characters.

First, we have the emotions in Nina and Marissa’s fight. Through Humphries’s writing and Bartel’s art, we see how much Nina resents Marissa because of Gloria’s love for her. I didn’t feel the resentment between Nina and Marissa previously. This emotion brings out a malicious side of Nina that we haven’t seen. Now that we see this other side of Nina, it shifts the reader’s perspective. Nina was perceived as a more “innocent” character that needs guidance. Now she’s not so innocent and is determining her own destiny.

Image courtesy of Image Comics.

After the fight, Nina and Clint reunite. Nina continues to express her distrust toward Clint in different ways. She mentions that a cop thinks Clint’s dead, to which Clint explains that dying is part of the initiation to become a paragon. Basically, he had to lie to Nina. Nina continues her disbelief until Clint reveals his true form. Bartel illustrates his face with a huge burn as Clint explains the situation. Nina responds positively by taking Clint’s hands, touching his face, then going in for an embrace.

This scene is another powerful one. It took a lot from Clint to reveal his true self. In reality, it can be difficult for us to open up to others about who we truly are out of fear of judgment. But this moment is symbolic. We all have an ugly truth we hide. Nina showing her acceptance is the reaction we all wish for.

Final Thoughts on BLACKBIRD #5

Overall, BLACKBIRD #5 is an emotionally heavy issue. I love how the plot’s progressed. We finally know what happened to Marissa and how she continues to play a part in the story. I’m excited to see how Nina becomes (or doesn’t become) a paragon, and what her true purpose is as the Blackbird. Will we ever find out what the Blackbird means? Stay tuned for BLACKBIRD #6.

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