Previously: Black Cloud #2
Reading an issue of Black Cloud is like walking backwards through a crowded room with all the lights out; you’re not quite sure where you’re headed, you never really know what you’re looking at, but you can almost certainly feel something there. Is that good or bad? I’m not sure.
I was very hyped to read this series because of its terrific creative team. The first issue certainly hooked me, and then the second issue maintained a sort of loose grasp on the narrative, but they each moved the reader forward and did pretty well to establish the universe we’re dealing with. We have the lead character Zelda, who is living in the old world because she was exiled from her world (The Outside?), and then she was paid to keep the mayor’s son out of the way for a while by taking him to The Outside. After that, she abandoned the son in The Outside, couldn’t get back in, and that’s where we pick up in issue #3. I think I have that right, but there may be some holes in the story, and that’s–unfortunately–the problem I’m having with this very young series. This third issue reads like I left Zelda and went to Mario for some of his magic shrooms, and now I’m drowning in one of his underwater levels.
We’re three issues in, right? And I can’t say I really know what the hell is going on. We keep going from one world to the other–and from one time to the other–without it feeling like the series is really concrete enough, yet, for us to fluidly (no pun intended) travel between realms. On top of that, we keep seeing different versions of Zelda, but we aren’t told this, so you see a new character and think “Who is that? Is that Zelda?” And that’s another problem: characters aren’t named often enough. As an example, we’ve now seen Zelda’s tattooed friend in two issues (in two worlds and two time periods), but I don’t know her name. It is only the third issue, so I’m willing to grant leeway for it to find its sea legs, as it were, but this is starting to get frustrating.
With that out of the way, I am still enjoying this series; it’s intriguing. The premise, as I understand it, feels almost Shakespearean in its tale of revolutionary love (or maybe Julius Caesar has been in the news a lot lately). Coupling that with the outstanding art from Greg Hinkle, Matt Wilson, and Dee Cunniffe makes for a unique experience, to say the least. I just wish it were more linear in its narrative, I guess? Or at least more comprehensive and less idiomatic in its storytelling.
I feel like I’m coming down really hard on this issue, and it’s frankly because I didn’t think this issue was all that great, but there are things I unequivocally like about the series. In fact, I love them. First, as I mentioned, the art is terrific. There are so many panels in this series that just look mesmerizing. Second, I love how each issue begins with a quote from the previous issue that reminds you exactly what event in the last issue should be on your mind as you begin reading this one. That works really well, especially when I’m reading multiple comics each week.
The quote used from issue #2 this month is “These doors aren’t the only way in, and you know it”, which Zelda’s tattooed friend told her, as we saw Zelda make her way to the shoreline and sit in the water. As this issue picks up right from that moment, things get very The Leftovers-esque, which is visually cool. This issue didn’t bother me enough to even consider giving up on Black Cloud, especially since it also includes some fun concept art sketches in its back matter, but I am just a little bummed by how the story has gone so far.