Black Cloak #1 Review

Writer: Kelly Thompson
Art and colors:  Meredith McClaren
Letters: Becca Carey
Publisher: Image Comics
Price: $4.99
Release Date: January 11th, 2023

Black Cloak #1 introduces a world of mermaids, elves, and various other magical creatures where Black Cloaks enforce the law and maintain order.  Murders are occurring in several cities, and two Black Cloaks are assigned to the case, finding that all the murders may be tied together.

If you’re interested in this comic, series, related trades, or any of the others mentioned, then simply click on the title/link to snag a copy through Amazon as you read the Black Cloak #1 Review.

The Story

Black Cloak #1 won’t be for everyone.  In fact, I think it will greatly appeal to a small niche of people, with it’s off-kilter urban fantasy world and its hybrid of fantasy and detective fiction.  I’m not part of that niche.
I suppose my main issue with the book is the art.  It’s a unique style, for sure, but at several times during the story, I was confused at which characters were currently talking, because all the characters looked alike.  It was like reading a book a Power Rangers comic where all the Power Rangers were dressed in green.  Which one is talking at the moment and who are they?

Beyond that, the story itself suffered from what many first issues do:  it introduced too many concepts too quickly.  There were so much terminology and mumbo jumbo throughout the book that it made a Star Trek script look like “Jack and Jill” by comparison. There were “Takas” and “Captures”, “Dracona Daggers”, “Soulprints”, “Royals” and, of course, “Black Cloaks”.   Some of these are given no explanation, relying on the art to interpret what they are, but the art fails to do so.

The mystery at the core of the book is fairly interesting, but not knowing much about the world and trying to puzzle what the political dynamics are ultimately waters down what could have been an intense read.
Main character Phaedra Essex is the best part of the book.  She’s a complex character and we get some insights into her past throughout the issue, as the murders involve someone from her past.  She’s a great counterpoint to her partner Pax, who’s very much like Danny Glover from the “Lethal Weapon” films, a world-weary guy who’s so tired of his Black Cloak work he’s a grouch on automatic now, going through the motions and barking at every minor mistake that an associate makes. I think the book would be better if Phaedra was solo. Pax seems like an unnecessary character, but maybe over the course of the series, he’ll come into his own. Overall, I found this first issue an average read, at best, but maybe it will improve as the series progresses.

The Art

As mentioned above, I found Meredith McClaren’s art on Black Cloak #1 confusing in many places.  I appreciate that they have such a unique style, but the style interferes with the story. In a few scenes, I couldn’t differentiate between Phaedra and some mermaids that were being investigated.   And there’s a scene where a “Capture” is activated on Pax, and after reading that scene four times, I still couldn’t tell what happened to him. The only thing I liked about the art were the scenes where magic is cast.  The magical effects are luminous and flashy, very much the opposite of how the rest of the book looked, and it really gives the feeling of magical power emanating off the page.

Final Thoughts

I’m sure there will be many fans of Black Cloak #1, but it just didn’t click with me.  Too much jargon, confusing art and a lackluster mystery made the book tough to get through, but there’s hope in main character Phaedra Essex, who’s the highlight of the book and manages to partially save it.


Leave a Reply