Black Road is not reinventing the wheel. Parts of it feel familiar, like a comic you’ve experienced before, maybe more than once. This could be because Brian Wood has expertly covered this part of the world before, in his acclaimed series Northlanders. Or it just could be that the setup, regardless of the setting, is one that we’ve seen time and time again. Either way, this familiarity doesn’t hurt Black Road. It doesn’t take away from the awesomeness of this first issue, because this thing is fantastically engaging and stunningly beautiful.
Brian Wood doesn’t follow the path he set with Northlanders—this is far from a historical comic. Instead, Wood injects Black Road with an action movie feel. There’s humor, action, and mysterious characters working with mysterious motivations. The narrative can be a bit jumpy at times, skipping forward in time and leaning heavy on narration when it doesn’t need it. But overall this is a first issue with a story that’ll grab you leave you eager for more.
What makes Black Road #1 a comic you absolutely must read is the art. Garry Brown’s art is intense, ugly, and atmospheric. From the very first page, Brown’s art sucks you in, immersing you in a violent and dark world. This feels like the book Brown was born to draw. His characters are big and mean, vicious and angry. The best of all is Magnus the Black, the book’s lead. He’s a wall of a man, but Brown injects him with sorrow and regret. He’s a lost soul on a road that’s filled with nothing but death and treachery.
Dave McCaig’s color work adds another level of beauty to this issue. He never buries the art, pulling back when the darkness needs to creep into the scene, splattering red when guts are spilled. Black Road is a visual feast on every page. McCaig’s smooth palette contrasts Brown’s jagged art style, but it creates a unique look that is truly special. Even if you took every word off these pages, Black Road would still be a book worth experiencing.
Even when it stutters and the narrative feels a little too familiar, Black Road’s art will keep you hooked. Fans of Brian Wood’s Northlanders will be happy to see the writer traversing viking terrain once again and fans of beautiful, intense looking comics will be in heaven. Black Road #1 is beautiful and bleak start to a series we will be adding to our pull list without a doubt.
IMAGE: Image Comics