By Daniel Vlasaty
Black Cloud is a book where I really have no idea what’s going on. I read it twice and I still feel like I’m just barely starting to understand. Like I’m just starting to kind of maybe get it. Black Cloud is about storytelling. It’s about how life is a story. It’s about the story that’s all around us, the one we’re living in right now. It’s also about dreams and magic and fear and history and adventure. Jason Latour and Ivan Brandon have created something really special here. Because, even though this is a complex and difficult first issue, it’s also beautiful and welcoming and invigorating.
Black Cloud is a lot of things. It’s crosses genre lines like they don’t even exist. It’s a fantasy and a mystery and a folk tale and it even has touches of hard-boiled noir. It is all of these things but it is not defined by any of them. It’s like a dream in that aspect. It flows smoothly but has sharp teeth at its edges.
But, seriously, what’s it about? Again: I am not really sure. But what I can tell you is that Zelda is a refugee from a world of dreams. She’s living on the streets and selling her magic to schoolkids like drugs for much needed money. She has the ability to transport people to her world, a place where anything is possible and everything is exciting and possible. A place where chameleons run the hottest clubs and the lightning carries unknown horrors. A place where, for some reason, she is someone to fear.
But she left this world of magic and dreams and beauty for a hard life on the streets in our world. There’s something there, but we’re not given all the information yet. That’s the mystery. That’s one of the mysteries at least. There are countless other things we are still left in the dark on.
Zelda is hired by a man in our world to hide someone in her world and, obviously, things don’t go as planned. And that’s all I know, really. But it doesn’t matter. All the questions I have don’t matter. All the blank spaces don’t matter. This was an enthralling introduction to a book that I can already see is going to be high up on many “best of” lists at the end of the year.
Greg Hinkle’s art is playful and almost cartoony. Whether it’s the highly-detailed New York street scenes or the anthropomorphic lion and chameleon and bull characters in Zelda’s home world, it perfectly captures the tone and feel of the story. I’m surprised this style works so well for a hard-urban fantasy story, but I honestly can’t imagine any other art style working as good as Hinkle’s does here. But in my opinion Matt Wilson’s color work is the real star here. It pops and is smooth and bright and bleak all at the same time. It (maybe weirdly) reminds me of a movie soundtrack in that it sets the tone for each individual scene.
Usually, I don’t get down with fantasy books. But like I said before, I think Black Cloud is something really special. It is like nothing else I’ve ever read before. It’s a book that expects things from the reader. There will be no hand-holding here. Which is something I think can turn a few readers off; having to do some of the work themselves when it comes to figuring out the story. I think this was a really smart first issue that focused more on establishing an emotional connection between the reader and the protagonist. It was very much more interested in the “who” and less so the “what,” “why,” and “how.”
I expect great things from Black Cloud’s next issues.
Black Cloud #1