Written by Greg Rucka
Drawn by Nicola Scott
Color Assists by Chiara Arena
Lettered by Jodi Wynne
Edited by Jeanine Schaefer
Published by Image Comics
One of the most impressive things that Greg Rucka does as a comic creator is he builds characters who have lives. From Tara Chase in Queen and Country to Dex Parios in Stumptown (and even in novels like the Atticus Kodiak series,) Rucka and the artists that he works with tell the stories of characters who have stuff going on outside of the panel borders that contain their stories. Deep emotional and personal stuff. In Black Magick #3, Rucka and artist Nicola Scott build a personal world around Rowan Black, a detective who is also a semi-practicing Wiccan. As evidenced in the first issue when her cellphone goes off in the middle of a ceremony, her mind might not always be focused on the Wiccan part of her life, another little bit of that patented Rucka character building. It’s these type of character-driven touches both in the writing and the art of Black Magick #3 which gives Rowan a purpose and something to fight for.
And it’s not just Rowan who Rucka and Scott focus their attention for detail on. Scott’s luscious grey-toned artwork gives depth to the darkest shadows but also adds delightful details to this story. As Rowan realizes that someone or something deadly is coming after her due to her Wiccan activities, Scott builds a relatable world up around Rowan. In the bar that she and other off-duty cops hang out in watching soccer, you can almost hear the beer taps running or the wooden chairs being scraped along the floor. The white textured sweater that Rowan’s partner wears while he’s off duty is soft but form-fitting. Even the furnishing in Rowan’s home paint a complex picture of her. She’s not just some rough-and-tumble police officer as her home is comfortable but has a certain refinement to it. As demonstrated by the walls of bookshelves, it’s fairly easy to assume that she does more in her off-duty time than sit at home and clean her service revolver.
Scott and Rucka are the perfect pair on this book because their eyes for detail build this life around Rowan that requires the reader to pay so much more attention to what is actually happening and what’s being said. That detail forces the reader to pay attention so when something happens, those details drive the importance of the events. Those details also ask questions. And the biggest question may be, “why is this a black and white comic except for the small explosions of color when magic is used?” It’s a question that Rucka and Scott haven’t answered yet but with the coloring assists by Chiara Arena, the color has significance on the story itself.
There are probably a few ways to read the use of color in Black Magick #3. The black and white artwork represents that something is missing from this world and it’s only made complete when magic is present. That reading may suggest that Rucka and Scott think our everyday world is full of magick that we miss daily. Or maybe the everyday world contains this magic but we’ve gotten so blasé about it that we barely notice it except for when it’s explicitly being used in front of us and we’re are the ones missing something. The color is all part of the details and minutiae of Rowan’s life that Rucka and Scott form around her to paint the picture of a fully formed life.
Narratively trying to follow Black Magick from point A to point B to point C and beyond may give off the impression that Rucka and Scott are moving slowly with the plot, only inching it along. That type of reading basically ignores the forming of the characters that is happening on each and every page. Rucka, always an economical writer, let’s Scott’s artwork tell so much of the story here as she visually fills in all of the elements of a life that reveals character. Whether it’s a flannel t-shirt tied around her waist when she has to cast some protection wards around her house or the fire extinguisher that seems to be placed to satisfy some municipal ordinance in some secret, shadowy lair, Rucka and Scott are shaping real lives for these characters that exist beyond the boundaries of the comic page.