I HAVE A special fondness for stories about stories. Long ago I came to the realization that people were designed to respond to narrative. Reality demands constant attention, yet a good story will take center stage in our minds every time.
I thought about that as I read the first issue of Image Comics’ new series Black Cloud, a story about stories and, more importantly, their power and importance.
I actually had to read the book twice, because it’s deep and heady and demands careful attention. It’s also a lot of fun. Writers Jason Latour (Spider Gwen) and Ivan Brandon (Viking) introduce us to a compelling new character named Zelda, whose storytelling powers are such that she can literally transport you to another reality. Her gift seems well-timed in the world of this story, one not unlike the present world, where people are drunk on viral content and starved for stories; where text messages—like “tiny stupid poems,” as Zelda observes—pop-up endlessly like pleas for something more.
And Zelda can give you something more—like a trip to a swanky bar where animals drink with humans; or a fantasy cityscape where sailboats in the sky make rainbows. But the really interesting thing is that these story worlds of Zelda’s are real enough to be dangerous. And that’s the central mystery introduced in this first issue. What are these places? And what is Zelda’s role in them? She’s both feared and afraid in these off-kilter realms. She clearly holds great power, and yet, we see her flee at the sudden appearance of rain.
There’s a lot of information conveyed in this promising first chapter, and a lot we’re left to ponder. There’s also a plot strand about how the powerful want to make use of Zelda’s abilities. It’s not hard to imagine a few interesting twists growing out of that.
Stories this rich in unreality require unusually transcendent graphics, and here artist Greg Hinkle (Airboy) and colorist Matt Wilson (Paper Girls) have combined to render an absorbing and emotional visual tapestry that perfectly complements the story. In their hands, fantasy becomes reality without ever not feeling like fantasy.
Brain candy. Eye candy. But no empty calories. This is one heck of start to a series.
Black Cloud #1
Available in Print and Digital
Release Date: April 5, 2017
Age Rating: M (Mature)
Writers: Jason Latour, Ivan Brandon
Art: Greg Hinkle
Color: Matt Wilson