by Greg Rucka and Nicola Scott
The oddities are really starting to pile up in the world of Black Magick. The string of strange occurrences that began in issue one has continued to amount in small bits each issue, and don’t let up here. While the series reads as a slow burn, near real-time procedural, that aesthetic, when well handled, can be very effective. With the fourth issue of Black Magick, the momentum really feels a bit absent. Still, a few good sequences and an exciting ending help maintain interest in the plot.
The fourth issue follows up on the closing events of issue two, as the detectives get more information about the body they discovered and what may have happened. None of it makes any sense to the detectives, and Rucka does a great job depicting this in a way that feels just as off, but tactfully, to the reader. The circumstances and occurrences continue to feel odd, but the obviousness as to why or the ways in which things are strange come across as though a rational explanation is just out of reach. Readers, like the detectives, simply do not know enough to figure this out. As the issue goes on, however, the other parts of the book simply feel like filler.
This speaks a bit to building the atmosphere and universe of Black Magick. It’s possible that, when read in full, this part of the story fits just fine. But here, a majority of the middle portion of this issue passes by with little intrigue. Rowan and her partner go for a drive, she makes arrangements for the lighter, visits a classroom, talks to others at the precinct and rules out a family. Each scene is important to the overall plot, but all of these moments within this single issue are notable in how they impact the momentum of the book as a whole.
The writing in the scenes is never problematic, and while the sum of the parts might feel a bit underwhelming this time, no scene is handled badly. When it comes to the visuals, the book is as strong as it has ever been. Nicola Scott does a fantastic job in this issue, as with the previous one, including a number of silent panels that establish the setting really well. When Rowan and her partner are visiting the family of a victim, Scott establishes the setting in just a few frames. But the image of the home, it’s quaint, simplistic look, and a brief look at the mantle, still home to a photo of the victim, pulls readers into the world of these people before ever meeting them.
Another wonderful element of Scott’s artwork is how strong her ability is to truly capture the emotion of a character on their face, and in their body language. Close up images or a distorted face filled with rage, or a wide shot depicting a character slumped over in grief bring a lot of power to these scenes. Even when little is taking place in terms of real plot momentum, Scott’s ability to capture a scene and fill it with emotional weight makes those panels remarkable.
In slow-burn books, sometimes issues can feel a bit more mundane as a stand-alone chapter. Still, the overall narrative and universe that are being crafted by Rucka and Scott have much promise. Black Magick #4 is not a standout issue, but is still filled with strong moments.