Writer: Evan Dorkin
Artist: Veronica Fish
Layouts: Andy Fish
Lettering: Andy Fish
Colors: Veronica Fish
Cover: Veronica Fish
Publisher: Dark Horse Comics
A college that trains students in the occult? A moody, gorgeous cover? Right this way, sir. High contrast colors, an intriguing premise, and an old-school gothic feel are just some of the elements that attracted me to the first issue of this series. While the beginning could have started with more of a bang, I am interested in continuing, and that is always the mark of a decent story.
I know some people are getting tired of ‘specialized’ school settings that seem to be inspired by Hogwarts, but I am down to try any that might have a fresh perspective and engaging plots. Blackwood hooked me from the get go with the art, and as I wandered, carefully, into the story, I found myself growing curious about the characters and the college. Mysteries abound, the key players seem to have shady backgrounds, and monsters lurk in the shadows. This comic is highly atmospheric with some compelling ideas, though I wish the characters were a little less archetypal and I wish the book didn’t possess such a stereotypical start. It would have been more gripping, I think, to have started at the school already, maybe a few weeks in to this semester, because having something happen the very first night of the new students’ stay is also somewhat implausible and a little too convenient. Some more thoughtful and creative planning of the plot would have propelled the series up a couple rungs, at least for me.
I’m a little jaded to the character types; even the ‘main’ girl’s name of Wren Valentine made me cringe a little. I would have been happy to learn more about each of them, even in a first issue. The drama between them is a little stretched so far, because I know nothing about them and can’t really believe they wouldn’t get along so quickly, which would be another reason to start the tale farther into the semester.
More than anything else, the art really stood out to me. The colors lend themselves well to this supernatural drama. The backgrounds of many of the panels are riddled with ample detail. Sometimes, I was a teeny bit dismayed by the awkward poses of the characters, especially arm and hand placements, but this is minor and can be overlooked.
The end was impactful and enough to have me waiting for the second issue. I would recommend Blackwood if you’re looking for a modern, simpler Lovecraft, a more horrific Scooby-Doo, or a teen angst Harry Potter.