Hey everyone! I hope you’re all treating the sudden and violent appearance of winter with the reaction it deserves, by which I mean either turning yourself into a blanket burrito or hiding from life and your responsibilities in the warmth and comfort of your bed. Naturally, the best companion for a blanket burrito is some quality reading material, and this week’s comic – if slightly surreal – certainly fits the bill. Written by Jason Latour (Spider Gwen, Southern Bastards) and Ivan Brandon (Secret Invasion, Viking) and drawn by Greg Hinkle (Airboy), Black Cloud volume #1, No Exit, is a surreal fantasy story with a dark past and a heady dose of political intrigue.
Zelda Barrett comes from a world made of dreams. Long ago, when stories and reality blended, those who crafted stories wielded immense power. The storytellers – those of the old blood, those that could shape stories – crafted a new world, in which they could escape the unknowns of the future. Generations later, Zelda has escaped the dream world into our reality, but between the nascent political conspiracy she’s been wrapped up in and the mistakes of her past catching up to her, she’s in for a rough time.
Boy, Black Cloud is a trip. It’s weird, and fairly vague at points, but Latour and Brandon have put together a really compelling story. There are clearly a lot of pieces missing; Zelda is homeless in our world, and shunned in the dream world, but there’s no real explanation behind either. I’m not entirely convinced by the political intrigue subplot, but it at least provides something resembling a stable, straightforward story in the midst of the chaos that is the dream world. The visuals are stunning – special props to Greg Hinkle and colourist Matt Wilson for that effort – and are definitely a highlight.
There are elements that remind me of a number of different titles; the dream world reminds me a lot of the Dreaming from Neil Gaiman’s Sandman series, and I get hints of Alice in Wonderland in a number of places. Without details of the dream world (and the accompanying plot points), it’s hard to make proper comparisons to other titles. It reminds me of attempting to read East of West for the first time; you’re missing so many details to begin with, but there’s the promise of a really intriguing story in the long run, assuming the book keeps you enthralled. I prefer to have at least some idea of what’s going on – and there’s just enough detail to keep me on board – but if you’re a fan of looser stories, Black Cloud is going to scratch that itch.
Black Cloud is definitely a title to keep an eye on; it’s still in the formative stages, and it seems like the story is going to get better and better as more details emerge. I’m not entirely sold, but I found enough to like that I still enjoyed myself. If you’re the impatient sort, perhaps give it a miss, but if you’re a fan of Sandman-style trippiness, add Black Cloud to your “to-read” list yesterday.
Written by Alastair McGibbon