The heady days of magic are not quite gone the way of witch wizards and warlocks, as Jack Wolverton aka The Black Cat can attest. It seems that he has been sought out to protect the world from magical shenanigans and artefact’s, almost like a non fame and fortune seeking Indiana Jones. There are differences, to be sure, with Jack being more the gentleman thief rather than the rogue-ish archaeology professor.
Still, the intimation is valid. Jack it seems has some knowledge of magic to go with his trophy hunting quest, although considering how much trouble the cats paw gives, you wouldn’t necessarily take that for granted. Along for the ride, albeit in a support capacity, is a priest and quite possibly love of Jack’s life. Dorian Gray rounds out a cast that tries to be new and familiar all at the same time.
Reading the book I am more than a little confused by the writing style. That is until the last pages with a potted history of the books inception. It seems Wolverton started as an original screenplay; that will then explain the over the top writing that goes to tell the reader what is happening in practically every picture. There is a reason why a picture is worth a thousand words, why then do writers Michael Stark and Terrell J. Garrett give us the thousands word to go with the picture? There are a couple of explanations, neither are great ones to be honest. Firstly, they may love their story so much that the don’t trust the art to demonstrate the action “that would give film directors wet dreams” (as advised in the blurb at the back of the book) or it could be that after being told, “it should be a comic first” (again check the blurb), the pair gave no credence to the idea that comics are a totally different medium needing a different set of skills than a screenplay writer. Whatever the reason, the boxes detailing every bit of action gets tedious quickly. There is also a bit of chronicity problem in the script; its clear that we are in a London that is transitioning from the Victorian age, so how can the narrator describe the crates moving and crashing like a deadly game of Tetris? Lazy description or more of a note to help an artist with metaphor that managed to get into the book? You decide.
Derek Rodenbeck provides the interior art with colors by Ellen Belmont. For the most part, I don’t have much of a problem with the art; it fits the era that all involved are aiming for, though what starts out as strong facial elements slips later in the book. It as if Rodenbeck is not sure of his influences or maybe his own style is breaking out. Either way, the differences aren’t too drastic and still manage to convey the message. Camera angles could be improved on, which in turn may reduce the need of all the boxes, which would give Rodenbeck more room to play with. The pace of the art is ok, nothing is really out of place. Belmont’s colors show some style as she deals with the belly of a whale and the city streets of London well. The pair may have taken a look at the Mignola-verse books which are always coloured to a high quality and meet the needs of the respective time periods. If they have, then it’s too their credit as the art, as whimsy as it can be in places, is the best thing in the book.
I get that creators have pride in their work; I am also aware that pride comes before a fall. Having blurb tell me how “original” and “insane” the action sequences are – I won’t mention that fighting on a boat, a sea, in a storm, to rescue an artefact is pretty much how Indiana Jones and The Last Crusade opens. I also understand that people want to make cash and that other writers will have had to pigeon holed their screenplays into comic form; but they have done it with great aplomb. As it is, there are a wealth of better quality books, dealing with the same sort of themes, but more recognisable creators available at a lower price. Oh and by the way, Raiders didn’t need a comic book before it was made.
Writing – 2 Stars
Art – 2.5 Stars
Colors – 3 Stars
Written by; Michael Stark & Terrell T. Garrett
Art by; Derek Rodenbeck
Colors by; Ellen Belmont
Published by; Burnt Biscuit Books