Publisher: Image Comics

Words: Kelly Thompson

Art and Colours: Meredith McClaren

Letters: Becca Carey

Do you like crime solving characters faced with a murder set in a mythical style world? Then odds are you’ll like Black Cloak. This first issue takes us to a city where centaurs run bars, mermaids eat people and black cloaks are like mystical police types. It’s a very rich setting for any sort of tale but lends itself surprisingly well to crime. Is fantasy crime a genre? Well it is now.

This is also a very meaty first issue at 60 pages it reads like a good chunk of a trade. This longer length enables more world building and character development which is always helpful when you are dealing with a relatively high concept giving breathing space to allow the reader to become familiar with the concepts on show.

It also meant that the slight disconnect I had from the first pages dissipated later on when what I had witnessed was revealed and made sense. For you are sort of thrown in and the first few pages don’t make perfect sense until you are partway through and the characters revisit that scene. I liked that. The issue doesn’t spoon feed the world building but likewise doesn’t make it too impenetrable.

The art helps with that. Meredith McClaron has a distinct style that is the familiar stylised art we find in a lot of fantasy books these days. Not cute but not realistic, treading the line between them. If you are looking for highly detailed depictions of a futuristic fantasy city you are not going to get it here. What you will get though is the feel of the world. Each location feels different, the designs work and the colour really helps with the atmosphere.

We cover quite a lot of the world from an apartment to a beach to a bar to a palace. There’s a variation of places and people. The design of the characters fits with the world. We have mermaids, the more traditional people eating kind. There are centaurs, fauns, fae. A lot of the traditional fantasy creatures are represented.

There’s also some traditional tropes represented. We have a personal connection to the victim by one of the investigators. We have said investigator having to revisit part of their past they had left behind. There’s a love interest. Things you expect from a modern crime related plot but reinterpreted with a fantasy filter and it helps give those older well worn tropes a fresher feeling.

There’s lots of enjoy here for both people who enjoy crime and people who enjoy fantasy. There’s a strong central murder mystery that has layers to it and a twist at the end of the issue. There’s really strong fantasy elements deployed well with interesting world building. Each element supports the other and it’s all blended together well.

One thing I also liked was the mystery of the black cloaks. What are the black cloaks? We get some idea there’s a police force element but there’s more to it than that. I look forward to seeing that explored more.

In fact I look forward to more generally. Delving into this world has proved interesting and enjoyable with that shocking moment at the end of the issue I really need to see what happens next.

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