Publisher: Image Comics
Written by Kelly Thompson
Art by Meredith McClaren
Letters by Becca Carey

Issue #3 of Black Cloak takes us deeper both into the world, into the plot and most interestingly into the partnership of Phaedra and Pax. We learn a lot this issue but the overall answers are still out there. It’s a satisfying and well paced read that has some great little character insights along the way. As issue threes go this is very successful weaving classic crime tropes with the fantasy world of Kiros.

Although we’ve seen Phaedra and Pax working together this feels like the issue where we finally get the feeling of them as partners. You know those scenes you get in crime dramas or crime films where one of the characters is down and their partner comes along to cajole them? That’s what we see here. There’s a definite poignancy to the way that Pax prods Phaedra to open up. He recognises she’s got a lot going on but has the concern of a friend as well as a work partner. A quiet moment at a food outlet that could be anywhere were it not run by a fantasy creature. It’s the touches like this that really ground Black Cloak and make it relatable to our own world.

I also enjoyed the art in the scene, the use of design and colour drawing parallels with a Japanese city or town, again it brings a recognisable sheen to a fantasy world. There are of course more fantastical elements as well such as the tree where Phaedra and Frey hung out as children. There’s a great page to show Phaedra and Pax flying to the secret past hiding place. Oh and Pax has fairy wings which somehow just work as part of the character design and don’t feel tacked on. The trees provide an interesting contrast with the area of the city known as The Trees.

Just as there’s contrast in the setting the work provides a contrast to the fact Pax has a homelife – a wife and child. It’s nice to get these insights into Pax as the majority of the focus has been on Phaedra (which completely makes sense). It’s a short scene but it says so much about Pax, highlighting the contrast between he and Phaedra. You can see how their differences can complement each other and why Pax cares. Again the character touches are lovely and the fact Pax’s young daughter hated crawling compared to flying is again a nice touch underlining the differences and similarities.

There’s also plot development. There’s two strands. There’d Phaedra and Pax investigating the message left by Frey and there’s the intrigues in the palace with regards to Phaedra surviving the attack on her life that has raised questions of it’s own The underlying plot development is that there’s people with power, dangerous people, and there’s conspiracy afoot. Again it’s a rather classic trope, right down to Phaedra and Pax speaking to a friend of Frey’s who won’t talk because of those scary powers that be but again it feels fresh in this setting with these little twists.

It is also nice to hear from Frey. He’s been dead two issues now and hasn’t been much more than a corpse of clues with a touch of flashback memory but here at last we get to see him as he was alive and speaking his own words. It still leaves unanswered questions but also makes him more than just a murder victim Phaedra knew in her childhood. We see Frey as his own person rather than just part of Phaedra’s story which is important because we do need to care about him in his own right.

I really enjoyed this issue. It’s a very satisfying read on a character level above all but never neglects the plot. The art is still fun and vibrant really helping set the tone. That tone is also light in parts, there’s humour in amongst the serious moments. I love the banter we get between Pax and Phaedra long with the heartfelt words. It’s a sold mix of tropes, character, plot and art. The pacing is excellent packing so much in without being rushed. A very successful third issue indeed.

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