Friday, May 12, 2006

The Black Coat #1

Some time ago, a mention of "occult spies in the American Revolution" officially put The Black Coat on my radar. However, it was a Speakeasy title ... and I think we all remember how that went down. I wasn't expecting it to see the light of day until I stumbled upon it at Night Flight Comics this week, and greeted it like an old friend once thought lost. Finally, the "occult spies in the American Revolution" book would be mine!

The Black Coat is a thrilling tale of spies, pirates, magic, and derring-do set in New York, 1775. A masked adventurer fights for the nascent American cause against all manner of foe, relying on technology, a network of assistants, and his own skill, smarts, and bravery. This is pure, unfiltered swashbuckling adventure with no sense of homage, no sense of irony, no postmodern nudge-nudge-wink-wink, no sense of a mission statement being delivered. It's not the all-ages fun of Scott Chantler's Northwest Passage, but seems like its adult brother from a world where adventure comics never died. It's not overly intellectual, and doesn't feel the need to excuse it's wit and panache with a sly wink at the reader. The pirates here are actual pirates, not a pomo reference to a popular meme. Our hero can glibly say "I'm afraid you'll have to excuse me gentlemen ... I don't have time to stay and chat" as he whisks away from as exploding pirate ship, and it feels true and right and appropriate. It is pure. It is honest. It is unique.

Though there are some storytelling issues now and again, areas where I couldn't follow all the beats of the page, the overall punch of Francesco Francavilla's artwork is powerful. Jeremy Colwell's inks on the first few pages are noticeable, and really tighten up the intricacies of the art, but even when Francavilla finishes the book inking himself the tone doesn't change dramatically. It is detailed and rich with the feel of the era, but also is alive and fluid and unafraid to let the characters move. The big set pieces like the aforementioned exploding pirate ship and a rooftop battle with a monster work well, with excellent choreography and pace. Both the writing and art feel very professional and polished, and I hope the team has found firm enough ground at Ape Entertainment that we'll see further adventures after this initial miniseries is complete.

The first issue of The Black Coat is in stores now, and more information (including a some preview art, and my new desktop wallpaper) can be found at The Black Coat Website. This is good stuff, and a refreshing antidote for comic buyers suffering from Big Two Crossover Burnout. It's a great reminder that comics can be rip-roaring, imaginative fun.



Kurt said...

I was definitely suprised by this one - I hope my LCS keeps bringing it in.

Mark Fossen said...

My LCS actually had a few copies, which surprised me. But I'll be preordering the rest.