Previously: Black Cloud #6.
As we’ve established in previous months, the first arc–consisting of issues numbered 1-5–of Black Cloud was shaky, to say the least. I cannot promise to stop bringing that up in the future, but I can say I will only do so with good reason. Here, it is to highlight how unfortunate that fact is, given issue #6 was terrific and this month’s issue is even that much better.
This story has found its life, and it has seen fit to give some of that life to me. I hope so much for people who may have walked away from the series during that first arc to come back and give it one more chance with its much-improved second arc, titled “No Escape”, because business has picked all the way up and it is booming.
Issue #7 is largely a bridge issue, setting things up for the future. Very big things wait just beyond the horizon. That could easily have this issue play like filler, but it doesn’t. We’re given just enough of a nibble from various characters, their settings, and the collision course they’re on to make us eagerly await the meal we are sure to get soon. It’s just good story structure, with intriguing characters doing interesting things, even as they continue to reference things from that first arc I still don’t really care about. Todd Havemeyer, for example; the whole story line with him going to Zelda’s world, while visually compelling, felt inconsequential to read, even as I knew it clearly wasn’t. It just didn’t hit; however, this issue brings that feeling of consequence to Todd’s story, and it feels like his disappearance has provided fertile ground for writer Ivan Brandon to potentially explore how grown children of rich and powerful white people are often infantilized in the media. I’m not saying the story will go that direction, or that it must, but I am saying it’s clearly a thread asking to be pulled. Apropos of nothing, I continue to love the design of Todd’s mother, Dottie Havemeyer.
Another fascinating aspect of Todd’s storyline are his father’s, Mayor Denny Havermeyer’s, Red Hats; the goons he has out seemingly patrolling the streets and assaulting people. Ever since these red-hatted sycophants were introduced in April 2017’s issue #1, they’ve been a clear parallel to red-hatted supporters of Donald Trump. To that end, seeing them become more violent with each appearance, there’s certainly a lot of room, within the parallel to Trump supporters, to provide some real commentary on demagoguery and populism. Again, I don’t know if that’s the story Black Cloud is looking to tell, but it’s right there. And if we’re looking to challenge the power and function of words and stories? Well, we’ll see.
In its simplest terms, this series could probably be boiled down to a “fish out of water” story. Zelda doesn’t quite belong anywhere, and everywhere she goes, she ends up hurting people. This issue, in a big way, drives that message all the way home and parks it in the garage. Not only does this issue’s story push that narrative, but its artwork even gets in on the game. The previous issue saw Paul Reinwand step in, and do a great job, to cover art duties for the series’ usual artist Greg Hinkle. Hinkle returns here and picks right up where he left off. Keeping with the heavy “fish out of water” theme, Hinkle’s panels often cannot contain their subjects; there’s a foot hanging out here, or a fist jutting out there. These panels appear to be overflowing with what’s inside them, which marries beautifully with where the series’ story is going. Whether this theme was intentional or not, I loved it. Additionally, this issue provides ample opportunity for Matt Wilson to stretch his coloring legs.
Yet again, there’s no real back matter to this issue, which continues to be unfortunate. I would love to get more insight into this series, its creators’ thoughts on it, and whether or not other readers are getting the same vibes from it as I am. Alas, there doesn’t seem to have been much interest in sending in letters.
One last thing, because I am desperate to get more people to read this much-improved series, I’ve figured out what I’d say is the best thing to compare Black Cloud to. It took seven issues for me to get there, but I got there, and the events of this issue really drive it home. Black Cloud is in the same vein, swimming in the same blood, as Neil Gaiman’s American Gods. Obviously, they’re not exactly the same, but they’re in the same wheelhouse, which means, if you’re fan of , or its television adaptation, this is very much a comic series for you.