Black Magick volume 1: Awakening by Greg Rucka and Nicola Scott

A review by Nalini Haynes

It’s night. I guess the Awakening has already happened because everyone’s awake. A coven of witches circle a tree stump, performing a ritual. Someone’s phone rings, inciting ire from the leader.

The leader is wearing a transparent robe revealing her breasts, detailed right to the nipple. Another woman wears an opaque robe but her ‘map of Tasmania’ is visible in the gap at the front. A horned man is dressed modestly. A branch-horned man’s robe gapes but still modestly covers his man-parts. I’m sensing a Game of Thrones bias here. Perhaps Black Magick should be renamed Game of Thorns? Because it’s in a forest?

Ro Black (Rowan Black, not to be confused with Ensign Ro), the woman whose phone rang, is called into work. In her work clothes she looks like a biker — jeans, top, leather jacket, thick-soled boots — although she’s a detective on the Portsmouth police force. One of her colleagues tells her she smells like ‘a headshop’; charming workplace. Don’t they have a sexual harassment policy?

The cops on the scene outside a café seem pretty straight-up and stressed, with Ro injecting humor.

Detective: ‘There’s something up with this guy.’

Ro: ‘I think taking hostages was the first clue.’

When Ro meets the captor, he insists she strips. These pics are surprisingly relevant to the plot and almost asexual: Ro wears a croptop bra and not-so-brief briefs. Her tatts are exposed. The madman with the gun takes her microphone, uses it, then destroys it.

The artwork is glorious. Some of the images, including portraits, are so well-drawn and inked they would look good framed. An extreme close-up focuses on the eyes of a guy who’s taken four people hostage. His eyes convey mood: bulging bloodshot orbs seen through glasses, only slightly darkly because it’s night.

The images are monochrome until the captor threatens to kill Ro. When she curses him, color makes the frame pop. Her eyes are piercing and magical. A few frames later, the flame extending from the cigarette lighter is spectacular. The following two pages look like they’re a double-page spread. Viewing them in two separate frames (I’m reading this electronically) loses some of the impact but the images still make sense. Throughout the story, frames featuring magical deeds have some color; the rest is in greyscale.

And, wow, full-frontal male nudity. Completely gratuitous. What a bod. that’s no micro-penis, either; Donald Trump must be orange with envy. Pity the body is attached to an angular face, the face of a fanatic hunting down magick.

People of color in Black Magick are part of the police force, part of the crowd, and inked beautifully.

It’s refreshing to see a man and woman cop team where the man is in love with his wife and there’s only friendship between the two cop buddies. Ro’s relationships with other women get Black Magick well past the Bechdel Test goal posts.

What a cliffhanger. How dare they stop just there? I NEED THE NEXT VOLUME.

Black Magick is like Willow from Buffy grew up and joined the police force. The art is fabulous even if my cat disapproves of any story featuring another cat. Ro is investigating a series of murders and attacks while an anti-magic fanatic visits the city to investigate — and, presumably, take down — any magical practitioners. Cue complications.

I need more Black Magick. Now.

I’m guessing the awakening for which this volume is named is an awakening of evil or the awakening of the forces of good as they realise they have a war on their hands or… Well, see the very last frame of the story. It says SO. MUCH.

On Image Comics’ website, Black Magick Volume 1 Awakening in trade paperback format is listed as costing $9.99 for print, $7.99 for digital (presumably US prices). Net Galley’s protected PDF for review is Adobe Digital Editions, which format is either too small to read the text (even the non-disabled minion agrees) or it takes half a minute to scroll down part of one page. Adobe Digital Editions is best avoided.

I asked my pals at Impact Comics for information regarding Australian prices and electronic copies:


The retail electronic version is DRM-free so it shouldn’t have Adobe’s time-lag problems. YAY.

So retail e-comics are viable. And yet Black Magick is one of those comics that people like me — Joss Whedon fans, Joe Hill fans, die-hard fantasy geeks — are going to want to collect. Hardcovers are the only kind of comic I want taking up limited shelf space on my living room bookshelves that host only the cream of my book collection while the rest is in storage. (Have I mentioned lately how small my apartment is? Inner-city tradeoff.) I really enjoyed Black Magick so I’ll make puppy dog eyes at Image Comics in the hopes of electronic review copies until the sexy hardcovers are released. :-)_

Rating: 4 and 1/2 out of 5 stars
Rating of Impact Comics replying to strange tweets: 5 out of 5 stars.

Black Magick Awakening — headshot of a woman facing the viewer, holding a police badge