There are many stories out there about worlds of hidden magic, a world just out of our reach. Growing up, I can’t tell you how many times I prayed for the magical world to come and take me home. Thus, when I got my hands on book one of Image Comic’s Blackbird by Sam Humphries and Jen Bartel, I was beyond excited to read this story set in the Los Angeles Basin area. This story is not like any other magic or superhero story out there. In fact, I got so swept away by this story- I’d love to see it in prose format—it’s that good.
The story follows Nina Rodriguez, a young woman who knew there would be the big earthquake in the Los Angeles area. Her family call her “crazy baby.” When it happens when Nina is thirteen, her life is changed. She sees the most beautiful monster ever as her family ran from their home. It was the beginning of her search for magic while her family fell apart, slowly but surely. For the record, the monster she sees is so beautiful, so terrible, and I’d be trying to pet it like nobody’s business. (Which knowing my friends, they’d be trying to stop me. Yeah, I’m that person.)
As Nina gets older, her life doesn’t get easier. Her mom dies, her dad fails the family, and she ends up taking the easy way out of coping- drugs, going from job to job, and evading her sister, Marissa’s disappointed looks. Yet, no matter how disappointing life has been, Nina knows one thing- magic is out there. Believing if she finds it, things will finally make sense. She’s been online in the conspiracy chats. She knows about the magic cabals, the sigils which mark the cabals, and other minutiae about them. For all she’s done, Nina has fallen short in discovering the secret to the magic cabals and she’s tired- tired of life, living, and tired of her own crap.
Little does Nina know that her life is about to change in the exact way she’s always wanted- by running into magic. The only thing she doesn’t count on is by chasing magic, there is a cost. Magic always costs. It is a truism which people want to evade, but magic costs because of your will, the energy needed to make your will become more, and the consequences. It’s the consequences that catch Nina off-guard. Why? When she finds the hidden magic world, she brings in her sister. In turn, her sister ends up being taken by the beautiful monster she met so long ago.
Who can help Nina through her magical walkabout in this hidden world? A young mage named Clint. Arrogant, good looking, and filled with ideas to make the world a better place. Having him by her side, Nina discovers truths about her past, an old friend, and faces a choice before her. Now, being a reader of all things fantasy, it wasn’t hard to figure out part of what might happen, but then there was the twist- which caught me off balance. The twist which made me want to hit the wall with a closed fist because it made me so angry to realise how badly Nina had been kept in the dark through the years. I hurt for her because anyone who’s been hurt by those you’ve trusted implicitly know just how betrayal it feels.
I’m not going to tell you more on what happens in volume one of Blackbird. I highly recommend this story. In fact, I’d say get the book just for the beautiful artwork done by Jen Bartel. (I am a huge Jen fan. Like, seriously huge. She is amazingly talented!) Add in the storyline from Sam Humphries to this beautifully drawn sequential art, superb lettering, and you find yourself in a pure emotional state from page one until the end. I got to the end and was like, “Wait…hold on, I need more! How can it end here? I need to know what they’re planning!” Thank gods there are more issues for me to read, otherwise, I’d be a cranky baby.
Truly, do yourself a favour, pick up the first volume of Blackbird. It’s stunning, appeals to any age, and it will take you on a journey which will remind you that magic is around you, even if you can’t see it. I cannot wait to see what happens next in this story because for me, it’s a journey I walk every day- the world of magic in a world which fails to see beauty and magic in the smallest things.
Ael’s rating– 9.2/10
Writer: Sam Humphries Artist: Jen Bartel
Colourist: Triona Farrell Letterer: Jodi Wynne
Editor: Jim Gibbons Publisher: Image Comics
Available: Everywhere comics are sold, Comixology