‘Black Road #1:’ Comic Book Review

Brian Wood is one of those crazy people who puts out a new book every three months it seems. I’m constantly seeing “Issue #1 . . . Brian Wood.” The amazing thing is, he is always on point. There is an effortless literary quality in his voice, an intelligence, an uncomplicated cleverness that probably takes a lot more hard work than it initially appears. Regardless, his words slip through your mind with ease.

His newest book, Black Road, is prefaced with a marvelously flowing half page of prose on the high seas. The beauty of this introduction is that it sets you up for something very classical in nature until the final sentence, when, suddenly, a provocatively disparate tone is introduced to juxtapose everything else. It made me laugh, in a good way.

The brilliance of this introduction is that it cuts through the beauty with something genuinely raw and likewise accurately irreverent. It’s unexpected on both accounts.

The book itself, subtitled: A Magnus Black Mystery, is raw to its core in the most beautiful of ways. Once a peaceful world, Christian conversion has turned everything on its head. People are afraid, the Church would rather find reason to kill than to turn the other cheek, and the only ones that will survive are the ones that avoid trouble or who know how to handle a sword. In the midst of this, a beast of a strong man and capable dealer of death, Magnus, is offered a hefty sum to transport a religious person of importance North along the Black Road – a very dangerous road.

Wood doesn’t waste any time. He gives us an interesting character we care about because he’s smart - street smart - and may care more than he lets on. He gives us a clear direction and motivation with which to travel and why to continue traveling. You are compelled to follow this character wherever he may go. This is writing 101 stuff, everyone. You want to learn how to tell a perfect story – here it is.

Garry Brown brings this violent world to the forefront with a visual elegance. His panel work and the rhythm of his storytelling is wonderful to watch unfold, and Dave McCaig’s dreary earth tone colors - where the shadows stand out the most and even the red of death is muted by how often it must occur - really flesh out this world.

This is a perfect first issue. Learn from this. Read some of Brian Wood’s other works like DMZ. The man knows what he’s doing, and it shows through and through. Black Road is no exception.

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