Writer: Evan Dorkin
Artist: Veronica Fish
Layouts & Letterer: Andy Fish
Publisher: Dark Horse Comics
A review by Stephanie Pouliotte
Blackwood #1 gives the reader what they expect up front, but far more lurks beneath the surface. It opens on a familiar scene, a troubled old man dictating his final farewell to be opened upon his impending death at the hands of some unknown supernatural force that has claimed the school for its own. Plotwise, this isn’t anything new, and so writer Evan Dorkin doesn’t waste pages establishing an elaborate backstory. He quickly sets up this strange murder-mystery and gives us enough unanswered questions to keep turning the page. The opening panels are also a fantastic example of the haunting artwork you’ll find within Blackwood’s folds.
Dorkin has said that Blackwood unofficially takes place in the world of his acclaimed horror series Beasts of Burden. Now he finds himself unburdened by the limitations of writing from a beast’s perspective. His character work is easily Blackwood’s greatest strength, closely followed by his keen sense of story pacing. Dorkin’s writing shifts in tone seamlessly, from eerie to witty, and delves beyond the “angsty teen” persona in exploring the haunted pasts of the main characters. The subtle yet pointed hints throughout this first issue – a poster for a missing girl, the unusual number of cemeteries for such a small town, the unnerving sidelong stares of the locals – all give Blackwood College a character of its own, an important staple in horror fiction.
We can certainly see the sum of Veronica Fish’s portfolio in Blackwood #1. Honestly, I can’t think of an artist more suited to pencil this college-horror comic. The amazing cover is a clear blend of the Archie/Slam! aesthetics and the more chilling interior pages channel her own Frankenstein artwork, which originally drew Evan to her table at Heroes Con a few year ago. There’s a lot of subtle storytelling and action in the backgrounds as well, which not only strengthens the eerie atmosphere, but also allows for a smooth transition between panels.
Buy it! On the surface, Blackwood #1 leans on familiar elements of college fantasy-horror comics, but this nightmarish murder mystery will wind its tentacles around you and drag you down into its depths. It’s slated for a short run, but if you’re a fan of horror and the occult, I’d add this title to your pull list.