Blackbird #1 Review

by Hussein Wasiti on October 03, 2018

Writer: Sam Humphries
Artist: Jen Bartel
Layout Artist: Paul Reinwand
Colourists: Nayoung Wilson and Jen Bartel
Letterer: Jodi Wynne
If I remember correctly, this book was announced at last year's Image Expo and I've been excited for it ever since. I've only ever read Sam Humphries' DC work, so the main reason I was excited for this was Jen Bartel's art. I've seen her online forever posting pin-ups and other art pieces along those lines. She only very recently delved into the sequential art foray.
I love Bartel's style. It's truly indescribable, in that I'm sure there's a term for the kind of art she puts out, but I simply don't know what it's called. That being said, style can only get you so far, and an artist needs a strong sequential imagination in order to let a book sing. I will admit I was disappointed with the art from a sequential standpoint. Paul Reinwand is the book's layout artist, which means that Reinwand lays out the panels on the page and Bartel comes in and draws the characters. This isn't entirely revolutionary; there are many layout artist and penciller teams in comics today. I couldn't help but feel like Bartel approached each panel as if it were one of those pieces I see her post online. Sometimes there's just a lack of energy and momentum, and especially a lack of clear storytelling. In the book's opening scene, main character Nina and her sister Marisa run away from their house during an earthquake, strangely leaving their grandmother behind. I'm not sure why this is, given Nina took the time to warn her grandmother. The panel which depicts the two sisters running from home with their grandmother in the background comes across as, for lack of better terminology on my part, stiff and laughable in a way. Again, the style is still there, but the stiffness of the characters genuinely reminds me of the comics I made when I was a child. I absolutely do not mean this as a personal dig towards the art since I'm a fan of the artist. Bartel has room to grow and that's made abundantly clear in this issue.
As for Sam Humphries writing, I was disappointed as well. I'm not exactly sure what I was expecting since, again, I've only read his DC work and have come away unimpressed. I like the voice he gives Nina, but I find Nina an incredibly unsympathetic character. I think it may have been a mistake starting the story ten years prior to the events of the main story. I simply don't have a solid grasp on who Nina really is, and her transition to the kind of person who constantly pops pills and who seems to be chronically lazy doesn't ring true since I don't know who she is. Her sister Marisa remains a huge part of her life ten years later, and I find her struggles much more sympathetic and real than Nina's. Having to take care of her sister seems to be very emotionally taxing and requires strength; I find her infinitely more interesting than Nina. I would have preferred to have her as the main character, honestly.
As for the story itself, it concerns Nina and how she witnesses some kind of crazy magic event during a massive earthquake that sets her on the wrong path from that moment forward. She becomes a stiff believer in the occult and paragons and the like. There's one scene in particular where I truly had no idea what was happening, in that I was confused and had to flip back a few pages to see if I was paging through without even paying attention. It turns out I didn't miss anything.
From a strict comic book buying standpoint, does this issue interest me enough to read the next one? The answer is, unfortunately and frustratingly, no. I'm probably not going to read the next issue. The storytelling could use some work and more care needed to be given to the main character to get me to care about her.

Our Score:


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