I absolutely love this. That’s it; no posturing to draw out my reaction to the first issue of this series. No burying the lede to try and get you to read the entire review. I just flatly, unabashedly love this. I love the premise, I love the writing; and man, oh man, do I love the art.
Black Cloud follows the Dickensian tale of Zelda, a person who is perhaps best understood to be a dream-pusher in New York (if I’m not mistaken). She’s not pushing dreams in the way you might expect a talent agent would woo a young actor; no, what she has on offer is the ticket to a literal dream world where, as far as I can tell, anything is possible.
Given the conceit of its lead character, it’s fitting Black Cloud is being brought to us by what could be termed a “dream team” consisting of Jason Latour (Southern Bastards, Spider-Gwen), Ivan Brandon (Drifter, Doc Savage), Greg Hinkle (Airboy, The Rattler), and Matt Wilson (The Wicked + The Divine, The Mighty Thor).
First, with the story. While the idea of escaping your reality to visit an arguably better one is not a novel concept–from Cool World, to The Matrix, even to J. Michael Straczynski’s Dream Police–it’s been done well, and it’s been done not so well. Also present are elements reminiscent of things like the film Pleasantville, Fables, and The Private Eye. Now, I list these things not to try to suggest unoriginality; I know that may be how it reads, but trust me: I already said I love this. I only list those things because they are all things I like–yes, even Cool World… well, its concept more than its execution–and if you like them, you will enjoy what’s going on with Black Cloud.
The story here also feels familiar in more important ways: be it the jaded lens of disinterest through which so many of us seem to view the world beyond whatever screen is directly in front of us or a politician with a “huge” presence. There feels to be an urgency to the story we’re being told with Black Cloud, which may owe largely to the fact it’s a story focusing on the value of storytelling being told by storytellers; very good storytellers, at that.
Now about the art; I could just throw out a paragraph of a bunch of heart emojis and adequately get across my feelings on not only the art here but how it’s being used, but I suppose I should actually say something. Full disclosure, as much as I do like the work of everyone else involved in this series–just look at my reviews of Southern Bastards as exhibit A of that–the biggest draw of Black Cloud, for me, was Matt Wilson. Wilson’s coloring on The Wicked + The Divine is amazing. As much as everyone knows buying physical copies of comics not only offers a tangible reading experience but is also important for helping keep local comic book shops in business, buying digital copies is just so much more convenient and really helps save on shelf space. To that end, nearly all comics I buy these days are digital. Nearly all, that is, with the only persistent exception being The Wicked + The Divine, and that is owed entirely to the fact that Matt Wilson’s coloring on that book is something I simply have to see on the page. Fuller disclosure, I had actually passed on reading The Wicked + The Divine until I met Wilson at my local comic shop two years ago, and he sold me a signed copy of the TPB for The Faust Act.
I assure you I did not go on that tangent in vain; I said all of that to say this, I believe I am now going to have to buy physical copies of Black Cloud because the art is just that good. The combination of Wilson, Greg Hinkle, and Dee Cunniffe (who does the color flats between Hinkle’s inks and Wilson’s coloring) makes for a visual treat. A large portion of this issue, and I would assume the series going forward, is black-and-white, or very desaturated at the very least. The idea of having the best colorist in the industry on a book with large swaths of color-free panels may seem insane, but it’s actually an inspired move because of not only the jarring juxtaposition of vibrantly colored panels next to panels with no color, but also because of how well these color choices mesh with the story being told.
I feel like I’ve gushed quite enough about this one issue, but I really could go on. The last time I was this into a series after just its first issue may actually have been Southern Bastards, now that I think of it. Anyway, I hope you are with me for however long this series goes because I have a feeling every issue is just going to be me saying so many of these things again and again.