From time to time, Comic Booked has indie creators provide us with a book they are working on and has asked us for our opinion on the title they are producing. For the most part, many of these creators just simply don’t have the reach to get their books out there as they are a smaller publisher and many don’t get the chance to be distributed through Diamond. One smaller studio, NAS Studios, has managed to get a number of titles ready and even though I have not personally seen them in Diamond for ordering they do offer a printed version of their book for order on their website. One book that NAS Studios has available is Black Mass, the first issue of which we’re going to look at here.
Black Mass is, based upon the website solicit:
[quote]Set in 1690 America before the Salem Witch Trials, Black Mass is a thrilling adventure about a young woman named Scarlett who is born with gifts considered by many to be a curse. During the course of 4 issues the reader will discover Scarlett’s powers as she unexpectedly wills them. As Innocence is taken from her she is shown a new path where death follows and more die. As it begins to take its toll she is only left with one option, to take Revenge. Follow Scarlett into this Adventure / Thriller that will leave you wanting more after every issue. [/quote]
Although I have seen many comics (and television shows) use the concept of witchcraft, most of those tend to stay away from the era of the Salem witch trials for the most part. Although this story doesn’t dive right into the trials, knowing it takes place in and around that era (which is pretty much an infamous time) gives the reader the setting without having to explain the setting in detail, which would take away from building up the characters and the story. By doing so, the reader already has some context and we can jump right in to learning about the players.
The story is written by David Sandoval and Adriana Mendoza. Although it was a tad confusing to get into at first, and in fact I re-read the story immediately after reading the title bio above, I was able to get into it a little more on that second read. The era of the story is, indeed, some time further back in the past and once I knew it was pre-Salem certain elements (more surrounding a satanic undertone) made a lot more sense. I just don’t see that the confines of the story would have happened in parallel, so this being before that era really works. The story on second read did draw me in, although there were a couple of editing issues I had (the wrong “they’re” being used, as an example). Yes, minor, but when I re-read comics all the time it is something that I notice. Although the story was solid, I think it could have been a tad smoother but I understand that the first issue is setting up for the remainder of the miniseries so I’ll let that slide.
The art is from Stefano Cardoselli, on both pencils and inks but getting some inking assistance from Rita Gorgoni. Although I felt the art a little jarring at first, as the story progressed and the darker elements became clearer it really started to grow on me and, by the end of the issue, I think it truly suited the story. Although I am not always the biggest fan of non-colored comics, the story era for this book really seemed to suit it and I think that a colorist would have actually been a detriment. Some of the scenes, such as the one of the priest’s horse, are just downright sinister and although there is a definite element of exaggeration there, there is nothing wrong with that. This is a time where there was fear of witchcraft and devil worship, so having more demonic features is warranted.
Although I cannot say that this issue was downright amazing, I think the concept is extremely interesting and, when put into context with the remainder of the miniseries, I have a feeling that this will be a solid “Chapter 1”. The reader gets some context to the venue, we get an introduction to the main players, and we get the introduction to a story that sounds very intriguing. I am looking forward to seeing what issue #2 brings. I would recommend this title to anyone who likes era-specific titles as well as something that is not a mainstream type of title – just be prepared to see the multiple artistic styles depending on who is in the scene!