Previously: Black Cloud #3
After last month’s third issue, I was wavering on this series quite a bit. I’m not prepared to say issue #4 brought me all the way back on board with Black Cloud, because it didn’t, but I can unequivocally say it has gotten me reinvested in the narrative being explored here.
Alright, so last month was a speed bump, but we got over it. The most important thing issue #4 does is avoid turning that bump into a giant manbaby stomping all over the city. This is a course correction, and it sets up plenty of options for great issues in the future, which is always a good feeling to have about an issue this early in a series’ run. You don’t want to feel like you don’t know where it’s going (or, worse, that it’s going nowhere), which was the problem last month.
Anyway, enough about the problems of yesterday; let’s talk about this issue, which is, admittedly, about dealing with past problems, but you get what I mean. What makes this issue work is we finally actually meet Frank, Zelda’s old friend/partner/love interest whom she is now at odds with because, when she abandoned their world, she also left him there to deal with it. This entire issue is comprised of people basically reading Zelda for filth about how she ain’t shit and never will be shit. By “people”, I mean Frank… and some dickish cats, but mostly Frank.
You have to have coherent and understood obstacles for your protagonist to deal with. Not only is Zelda grappling with what she did to the world, but now that world has a name and a literal face in Frank (and it’s implied we didn’t see his face until now because she had forgotten what he looked like, which is nice). Do we want Zelda to succeed? Do we like Frank? Exactly how powerful is Zelda? Will Lem get any redeeming qualities? What’s going to happen to Todd? These are all strings we can now see pulled in upcoming issues.
That all expands and improves upon the series’ narrative, and that’s why this is probably the best issue of this series so far, in terms of establishing Black Cloud‘s longevity. After reading this issue, I feel like there’s actually a story here to be mined for a good while, as opposed to just enjoying the singular stories, as I did with issues #1 and #2.
I also love the art in this issue. Here again, the art may have individually been better in any of the previous three issues, but it serves the story much better here. The emotion on Zelda’s face when she’s forced to slip into whatever persona it is she wears when she’s gotta fuck someone up goes so far to inform us of not only where she currently is mentally but where she has been. It’s great artwork that looks gorgeous, sure, but it also services the narrative, and that makes this the most complete issue we’ve gotten of Black Cloud, yet.
The series still doesn’t have any reader feedback to put in its back matter, but they more than make up for that with some great images showing the visual development of not only the cover of this issue but also one of its pages. We see Greg Hinkle’s rough sketches, Dee Cunniffe’s color flats, and Matt Wilson’s colors. To top all that off, there’s even some “fan art” from a couple of other comic artists whose names I’ll let you find out when you read the issue for yourself.
Don’t throw me through any windows, but I was worried about this series. The narrative just didn’t seem to be coming together. This is only one issue, so I’m not ready to say everything is perfectly fine now, but this one went a long way in that direction, and now I am back to that eager anticipation I felt before Black Cloud #1. It’s a good feeling.