OK, I’m a little biased here: I’m a huge fan of Pablo Peppino’s work on Skies of Fire, and he even did a pinup for me quite a few Kickstarters ago. (By the way, if you haven’t read Skies of Fire, you should.) Though it took me awhile to read Lampblack, I’m glad I finally did, as it’s a comic worth reading, not only because of Pablo’s work, but the story it has to tell.
Like her mother before her, Mabel is an ink girl which means she has the magical ability to manipulate the dangerous substance known as Ink Black. It is a substance that must be contained and treated with great care. If it gets loose as inkblots, it can manifest itself into a murderous monster; however, in the hands of an ink girl, it can be used to create art which literally comes alive. But there is danger in possessing this type of creativity.
Mabel, her mother, and her little sister are part of the Fenn minority that sought refuge in Caraday after a war where Ink Black nearly destroyed everything, including the execution of those women who could control the ink. Fearing for her daughter, Mabel’s mother orders her teenage daughter to stop painting, but when she loses her job, Mabel uses her gift to help bring in much-needed cash. While at the art gallery, Mabel discovers a young man being attacked by an Inkblot monster, saving him with a literal thrust of her brush. He is Nicholas Cohen, the only son of powerful magnate Sterling Cohen. Deaf since an attack on his mother when he was a child, he is estranged from his father. Nicholas joins the military after leaving home and writes to Mabel to ease his loneliness, though he is careful never to tell her who he really is. Determined to find out what his father’s involvement is with the notorious Hammer Soldiers, Nicholas disobeys orders to find out. The truth and how it relates to Mabel may be more than he bargained for, as the Hammer Soldiers have a secret of their own.
I love Pablo’s art. The detail and the coloring set it apart from most comics, and it has a Studio Ghibli feel, as well. The scenes remind me of Skies of Fire, yet the coloring sets it apart. I particularly enjoyed vibrant colors combined with subtle hues. The reflections of light from the Hammer Soldiers’ masks were a particular favorite of mine.
Writer CM Anderson developed a rich world where zeppelins fly, yet magic exists. But the real story is the one behind the plot, where themes such as discrimination, misogyny, and the weaponization of creativity are explored. This last theme strikes at the heart of this story, and it will be interesting to see where it takes the characters. A world filled with possibilities which can descend into darkness rapidly is a parable for our own times.
A thoughtful and engaging story, I highly recommend it.
Creative Team: Camille Longley [a.k.a. CM Anderson (writer)], Pablo Peppino (artist), Joel Saavedra (letterer)
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