The slow burn of Black Magick continues in its third issue although luckily no one dies or does any self-immolating like in issue one. Writer Greg Rucka and artist Nicola Scott continue to zero in on Rowan Black and her feelings as she struggles to balance her life as a Pagan, who is being targeted by a super secret Masonic order, and as a by the book police officer. Black Magick doesn’t quite have action thriller pacing, but Rucka and Scott do a good job showing Rowan ill at ease in completely normal situations, like drinks and football at the pub with co-workers, and the tension she feels as she tries to get Rowan White’s lighter from lock-up while chatting with a fellow officer about losing or switching partners. And before things get too repetitive, the scope of the series expands with a lot of untranslated German and a new enemy for Rowan on the horizon.
In Black Magick #3, Scott continues to make Rowan stand out from her peers through the darkness of her hair and motorcycle jacket. For example, her art in the pub scene captures the likenesses of Rowan’s co-workers and even random fellow drinkers, but Rowan is always the first point your eye travels to because of her raven hair and features that comes through even in a monochromatic comic. The play between black and white comes to a head when Rowan chats with her Wicca friend Alice, who is the light to Rowan’s darkness in Scott and color assistant Chiara Arena’s scheme. This makes sense because Alice only talks about selfless, protective, white magick, like protective wards while Rowan killed a man in Black Magick #1. There is a lot of exposition about “hands of glory” and secret societies in their conversation, which suits the white and black motifs, but Rucka takes some time to inject some naturalism, like Alice chiding Rowan for falling back on her magic.
Even if you’re neither a police officer nor a Pagan, the insurmountable difficulty of maintaining work/life balance can be applied to most readers. Scott also gets a chance for some quiet beauty and a dash of color as Rowan feeds her cat, sets her wards with a burst of blue spark, and sets her life in order for now. But before the colors come out, Scott inserts some panels of Rowan looking out her door fearing to see what kind of people the mysterious (and dating at least to medieval France) Aira will send after her. We even get to see the Aira in a scene that is mostly untranslated German and adds to the air of mystery for readers, who know “Danke”, “Guten Tag”, and “Aufwiedersehn”, like me. Except there is a nagging feeling that these untranslated sentences could shed further insight on their motivations and hint at character traits.
Still, Greg Rucka and Nicola Scott have successfully turned this comic from a police procedural/murder mystery with occult elements to a possible, full-fledged conspiracy thriller with secret societies, symbols, and traps ready to be sprung. Black Magick #3 paves the way for this possible brave new world and doesn’t neglect Rowan’s emotions about seeing two dead bodies in two days as well as her strained relationship with her partner Morgan and friend Alice. And Nicola Scott’s charcoal pencils meets fully painted art style continues to be aesthetically pleasing and visually add to Rowan Black’s emotional burden as she must choose between justice or personal security.
Black Magick #3
Written by Greg Rucka
Art by Nicola Scott
Color assists by Chiara Arena
Letters by Jodi Wynne
Published by Image Comics