By Jarrod Jones. Black Cloud is intricately-folded origami. One look and you know the steps involved in creating it must have been challenging, rewarding. You hold it up in front of you. Study its several facets, angles, dimensions. You turn it around in your hands and ask, how in the hell did they pull this off? And if you made an attempt to unfold it, try to figure it out, you’d probably just fuck it up. In that regard, Black Cloud is a riddle.
It’s noir. It’s fantasy. It’s a melting pot of ideas, all of them intriguing. Jason Latour and Ivan Brandon conspiring to stay one step ahead of us. Greg Hinkle and Matthew Wilson rendering no less than three worlds, all of them convincing. Aditya Bidikar, who has done wonderful things for Drifter, Night’s Dominion, and The Skeptics, keeping the flow.
It’s one hell of a creative team, but perhaps the most impressive thing about Black Cloud #1 is that nobody’s stepping on anyone else’s feet. Maybe that has something to do with the book’s subtext. Black Cloud is about the toll we all have to pay when we create. It’s about what happens after the serotonin is depleted, when our neurons are frayed, when just about every last bit of us is on the page. Zelda, as our protagonist, personifies that cost. She’s from a different world, one where dreams define reality, where art has the power to topple leviathans. Something happened to Zelda, obviously, because now she’s hit bottom, left adrift in our time to hawk her power to shiftless prep school brats. She flew too close to the sun, probably. And now she’s scraping by with just her talents to put food in her belly.
So the creative process has been romanticized a bit. That only encourages everyone to fire on all cylinders.
Greg Hinkle, who knocked me dead alongside James Robinson with Airboy, is stupendous. His ability to pack a single panel with an insane amount of detail without once making it look overcrowded is put to magnificent use. Teamed with Matthew Wilson, a colorist so talented that you could tell me he was a wizard and I’d believe it, Hinkle’s pages stagger the senses. And when you want to make a good first impression, flooring the reader is generally a great place to start. (Hinkle and Wilson are at their most cohesive on a page that establishes Zelda’s dreamscape, which looks like something… well… out of a dream.)
Imagination is the tool with which we fill in the blanks of a story. It’s the thing that puts suspicion in a stranger’s eyes and the bogeyman under our beds. And for now, Black Cloud has a pretty frightening presence lurking over the proceedings that makes the imagination work overtime. When the rain comes, people run and hide their heads; in Black Cloud, they would be wise to.
Because when lightning strikes, something terrifying steps out from the bolt. For us, it’s an invigorating experience. For Jason Latour and Ivan Brandon, Black Cloud is a chance to get in some essential creative exercise, to hone their strengths against the demons of self-doubt. This debut is a solid example of their craft, a well-told beginning that sets its own rules but doesn’t skimp on the consequences.
Story by Jason Latour and Ivan Brandon.
Art by Greg Hinkle.
Colors by Matthew Wilson.
Letters by Aditya Bidikar.
Design by Tom Muller.
Edited by Maria Ludwig.
9 out of 10