Rowan Black's life is a mess. She's a closet witch which is increasingly conflicting with her work as a busy police detective. She's been held at gunpoint by a cursed man who knows her secrets and only barely escaped immolation by murdering him. Her latest investigation centers on a rapist she was unable to convict whose death is under such odd circumstances that it may look like she or her partner killed him themselves. Unfortunately for Rowan, things don't appear to be getting much better, as a tattooed stranger may be have arrived to kill her and something magical is attacking her friends. It's a lot of material to pack into four brief issues and in places, this latest chapter strains under the sheer weight of the plot. There are a ton of things I like going on in Black Magick #4 including Rucka's usual sense of attention to detail. In the midst of the bigger plots, we are given glimpses of the smaller aspects of police work that continue to provide a nice counterbalance to the magic. For example, Rowan is careful to check that her spell is holding so that no one realizes she's tampered with police evidence (a gleeful grin indicates that Rowan truly loves using magic). And later an interview with the parents of the dead rapist's victim have a confrontation with the police so emotional that I found it hard to read. It's my favorite part of the issue, and a credit to Rucka's ability to write vibrant character and Nicola Scott's ability to depict them.
In general, Scott's artwork remains truly gorgeous in the fourth issue. Her predilection for making character over-attractive is still a bit annoying (an otherwise wiry, thin character becomes a bulky underwear model when his shirt is off), but each page is a gorgeous enough to make this a small complaint. Scott's soft linework and precise outline make the pages flow nicely from point to point allowing Rucka's dialogue to take a break from time to time, letting the comic breath.
All that said, it would be nice if there was not so much going on. While the murder investigation is the through line of the issue, there are simply too many elements we don't understand to get a handle on the plot. What is stalking Rowan? What does Rowan's friend know? What does being a witch entail anyway? All these question likely have satisfying answers (Rucka's track record speaks for itself), but the mysteries wear a little thinner every day.
It's an inherent danger in heavily serialize book that a single installment can in places feel slight as it gives a bit of movement to each character but not a full arc to any given piece. In a trade, these issues will read just fine as important connective tissue that ties everything together makes for great pacing. In issues they simply feel a little less than integral. This is fine, trades are to me still the ideal format for comics and the huge amount of serialization or 'decompression' which is at time controversial is to me a distinctly good thing. So in other words, 'Black Magick' is a great book and I can't wait to get the volume in a month or two, but issue four is probably not going to astound even fans of the book.
Black Magick #4 Authors: Greg Rucka Artists: Nicola Scott Publisher: Image Comics Price: $3.99 Release Date: 1/27/15 Format: Ongoing; Print/Digital