Since it’s the Halloween season , witchcraft as a genre in comics can be used to titillate. Take Jim Balent’s Tarot, Witch of the Black Rose, a fantasy comic where the heroine is either scantily clad or completely nude, and there’s such characters as the Scarlet Witch, Zatanna, and Enchantress. Without forgetting Sabrina Spellman, and those readers of Sabrina probably won’t be reading Tarot. Last year, Scott Synder and Jock’s Wytches dispensed the idea of spells and broomsticks and went in a chilling direction as creatures, who live inside trees and threaten families which proved to be highly successful.
In the case of Image’s Black Magick #1, created by Greg Rucka and Nicola Scott, the duo are certainly trail blazing. The crime writer behind Lazarus hasn’t fallen back on the various clichés or attempted to emulate Wytches. He freely admits in an interview that he was “legitimately scared” he began prepping for Black Magick and began researching books on witchcraft in 2009, in doing so they’ve created a unique sub genre which Rucka calls “Witch Noir.”
In an age of rising book costs, Image aren’t hiking the prices for the comics they publish unlike Marvel and D.C. Whilst Black Magick is forty pages, it’s also $3.99. Since it’s extended, it eschews the horror approach (for now anyway) for character development. Black Magick introduces detective Rowan Black, a practising Wiccan, who comes from a lineage of witches and attempts to keep a line between her work as a detective and her other life. But both worlds start to clash when she arrives at a hold up which ends with explosive consequences and forces her to confront her past.
Rucka leaves an indelible mark on readers because he’s written female characters, such as super soldier Forever Carlyle on Lazarus and private eye Dex Parios in Stumptown. Since Black is the protagonist, the last page leaves us wanting to know more about her and her abilities. Aside from a compelling first issue, it’s Nicola Scott, who deserves praise. The Australian based artist has come a long way from working on book such as Secret Six, Wonder Woman, and Earth 2 for DC Comics, which were all bright and colourful.
Like Rucka, she has an interest in witchcraft, and it’s apparent in the pages she’s drawn. Unlike the colourful world of DC superheroes, she’s altered her artistic style for the book. It’s fully ink washed in black and white, and when there’s colour it explodes with dazzling vibrancy courtesy of Scott and co-colourist Chiara Arena.
Given the grounded take on being a Wiccan in modern day society, the Image series has been welcomed by a member of the Pagan community. Comics fan Hannah Pickford has been a Pagan for sixteen years, and she is also a vlogger on YouTube. She commented about the book, “Very empowering role for women. Rowan is strong yet we want to know more about her. It’s very accurate to the craft, hence Nicola Scott’s upbringing shining through in the artwork”. Because it is set in the realistic, yet attractive combination of fantasy & the craft, she believes the book “represents religion in a positive, honest & attractive light”.
Special Thanks to Hannah Pickford for her contribution to this review/interview.