Previously: Black Cloud #7.
When we left the previous issue of Black Cloud, we knew Zelda’s two worlds were about to collide in a big way. This issue doesn’t just pay that expectation off; it manages to do so and not be a one-note show doing it. I’ll explain what I mean below, but the upshot is the fact I cannot get over how much this series has improved in its last three issues.
So, of course, we expected to see the Old World and the New World (I don’t remember if that’s the name of the other world) kind of bleed into each other in this issue; the events of issue #7 suggested as much. Knowing that, it would have been easy to have this issue just do that one thing; just show some element from the magical world interact with Earth in some way. We do get that, but script writer Ivan Brandon also takes this opportunity to lay some narrative exposition explaining some of the back story for the series. These are things that may have been alluded to in previous issues, or things we were left to assume, but here is where they are laid out plainly. This level of direct exegesis isn’t typically necessary, but I do feel as though this series benefits greatly from it here. We get concrete explanation as to how the two worlds relate to each other and why them overlapping now is not only bad but entirely unexpected. This is great narrative positioning for this exposition because the reader has to know at least these basics for the next part of the story to really matter to them.
What we also get is some excellent action, which ties directly into the two worlds blending together, and I’m talking visceral carnage; battle field, war wound, “tell my wife I loved her” action. That may feel out of place because I don’t believe we have seen this level of violence in Black Cloud before. But I feel the action needed to be on this level because, if I’m reading this correctly, how deadly things get here is kind of the point. You see, all this death and destruction is a result of creatures being on Earth who should not be on Earth, so we need to understand what Zelda is up against and how it could potentially affect Earth. Again, good storytelling; and good visual storytelling.
Now, about those creatures. Overall, they feel adequately imaginative and yet nondescript enough to be believably conjured from “weak” magic. You remember that scene in Hook where the Lost Boys reteach Peter Pan how to eat imaginary food? The creatures in this issue felt reminiscent of that, where it’s kind of like “a bug” or “a dinosaur”. Again, I think that’s the point; these are lower level creatures serving more as a portent for what is to come.
But that’s overall. There is one guy, who can be seen in all his glory on this issue’s cover (top), who’s amazing. I love this character design, and I love his move set. He’s referred to as “The Rider”, but I immediately saw him as a sort of rainbow Zorro–Zorrbow, if you will, so that is his name forever. It’s such a clean and instantly identifiable character design: white clothes, with an outline made of a rainbow gradient. And he rides a unicorn, for fuck’s sake! It’s a unicorn, and he rides it! Could this character be any cooler? The answer to that surprisingly non-rhetorical question is a resounding YES. If you’ve read the issue, you know what I’m talking about. If you’ve not read the issue, you need to read this issue. The last time I was this instantly taken by a character design was with the villain Doppler in C.O.W.L.. I was so taken by that design that I actually ended up cosplaying as Doppler at DragonCon in 2015. I’m not sure how anyone would go about cosplaying Zorrbow, but I sure hope someone does. Thank you, Greg Hinkle and Matt Wilson (and maybe Jason Latour?); anyone who needs to be thanked, thank you for this character.
The series has not had much back matter, if any, up to this point, but that thankfully changed with issue #8. Not only is there back matter here, but it’s exactly what I wanted; I feel like Black Cloud‘s creative team were like “Okay, John; we hear you. Have some sketches.” Probably not, but we do get sketches, nonetheless. In a section titled “The Making of a Story”, we get some great concept art of both Father Fear and Zorrbow. I could not be happier about this development. I love seeing how character design comes together, which is why I enjoy art books as much as I do, so any amount of this kind of concept art is more than welcome.
Overall, this issue does well to tie the story’s past to its imminent future, and it does so with a hellacious action sequence at its core. That’s the formula for a great issue.