After reading the debut issue of Black Cloud, I couldn’t help but wonder whether the beginning, middle, or end was the best part of a comic book arc. Sure, the resolution towards the end of a story usually tends to hold more water, but this comic reminded me of how enjoyable and how much promise, potential and possibility lies within the pages of a debut issue.
The writing duo of Jason Latour and Ivan Brandon can be proud of their work on this issue, laying a foundation that remains true to the core of this story about stories and imagination. No, I didn’t research this title at all before reading, and I wouldn’t consider myself a superfan of similar themed comics, so is it a surprise at all that I enjoyed reading this? Well, for starters, this steered clear of superhero territory, which tends to score points at least in my book these days. We’re given a nameless protagonist who, we learn, has some degree of superhuman power to speak of, but not much else. Then there was the tongue-in-cheek reference to corruption in the political spheres, and mentions of the deluge of information that is contemporary life. The writing team’s wistful words in key panels struck a chord with me and I couldn’t help but think about carefully curated news schedule and how much attention a catastrophe such as the ongoing Syrian war gets in the mainstream media. Maybe the world would care more if they were made to care, the way they’re made to care about reality TV shows and shopping for bullshit and forms of government that pretend to care but really only want your money and to enslave you.
Speaking of fantasy, I realise that in hindsight, I should’ve guessed that Black Cloud would’ve been part of this supernatural genre, what with the protagonist wielding an otherworldly sword (a mastersword perhaps?) on the cover. But, make no mistake; this book isn’t about a jolly romp through the Candyland orchard. With an ‘M’ rating, this book features drug references and other mischievous indulgences like big boy words and even more naughtiness in suggesting the breaking of rules, or defiance of authority, as alluded to in the opening sequence. The editorial team’s deliberate choice to avoid names, except for Kay, Mayor Denny Havemeyer (pronounced have a mayor?) and his son Todd, in an odd way reassures you that there will be a good helping of revelation in upcoming issues, and just like in the first Matrix film, we learn about the existence of alternative worlds, or different levels of existence. Even within the clichéd base for comic book stories…New York City.
I probably wouldn’t be alone in guesstimating that the theme of colour will play a major role in the coming issues, especially with obvious clues like the word ‘black’ in the title. Is it a reference to black clouds and the rain, which seems to be the calling card of our heroine’s arch nemesis? Artists Greg Hinkle, Matt Wilson and Dee Cunniffe have presented a world that seems fun to wander around and get lost in – a place with moods and secrets, places that are welcoming and places that are unsettling. Their deliberate pre-determined colour palette has made it easier for readers to decipher whether the characters are in the real world, or I one of the other settings we are shown throughout the book. It was similar to what the art team did on the opening arc of Jason Aaron’s most recent run on Dr Strange, which was a delight to see on the page.
And so, as we await future installments, we can wonder about things that may or may not be so trivial in the story, such as whether or not a drug dealer can be termed as one if he doesn’t actually peddle any substance, what are the limits of our protagonist’s powers, and what are the logistics of being taken on an excursion into the (brace yourself for a Stranger Things reference) the upside-down or a sub-level. You might also wonder whether the protagonist really needed to give the poor street vendor such a hard time. But take heart and be strong! The future is uncertain and the end is always near, so let’s think positive thoughts and consider all the promise and potential the debut issue of Black Cloud offers us.