"Blackwood #1" Comic Review
Written by James Ferguson
Published by Dark Horse Comics
Written by Evan Dorkin
Illustrated by Veronica & Andy Fish
2018, 32 Pages, $3.99
Comic released on May 30th, 2018
A new batch of students arrives at Blackwood College to begin their studies in the occult. They have a different kind of orientation. Instead of team-building exercises and ice cream socials, they stay in a literal haunted house and deal with disturbing monsters. I can only wonder what the fraternities must be like.
The pacing of Blackwood is solid, beginning with a frightening glimpse of the terrors these students are about to face before taking some time to introduce them. They’re little more than average college kids by this point with few exceptions, but there is enough personality in each for you to get a rough idea of who they are. There are some stereotypes in the mix like the overachiever and the party guy; however the story doesn’t fall into any of the usual tropes. Sure, some of them will probably be dead before the end of the series, but it’s not like an average slasher movie.
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This stellar pacing continues throughout the entire first issue. Although we spend time getting to know these characters and their bizarre setting, there are moments of unsettling dread peppered around. It’s clear that Blackwood College is a place of mystery. It has given birth to many urban legends and, due to the supernatural element, some or all of them are real. This means that just about anything can happen.
Judging from what we’ve seen so far, we’re in for a wide variety of horrors. Artist Veronica Fish draws some super creepy stuff. There are some terrifying monstrosities on display. There’s something about melting flesh that is just so friggin’ scary. Seeing something unnatural pop out of a person’s body is very frightening. That tentacle should not be there. We should not hear a moist “SKLUCH” as it whips out at a potential victim.
Although they’re attending a school of the occult, these kids aren’t inherently bad. They seem like decent enough human beings, so when something crazy comes at them, it makes for a tense scene. Writer Evan Dorkin crafts this well, creating quiet moments of uneasy dread on one page and extreme fright on the next.
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There’s one sequence in particular that encapsulates all of this. You’ll know it when you see it. Fish stays on a moment for a little longer by repeating an image again and again with subtle changes so you get a sense of how somber the evening is before something chilling and small happens to change everything. I know that sounds super vague, but trust me, you’re better off seeing this for yourself.
Blackwood is like Harry Potter mixed with Deadly Class. It keeps all the supernatural elements and ups the danger factor considerably. If this is just a taste of what this series has to offer, I’m very excited to see where the creators take it next. It’s a well-rounded horror book.