That arresting cover of an old man looking out of his doorway with a background of a bald, black woman looming behind and over, amidst a backdrop of black with red leaves is a story you need to know. Roman Black has a dilemma where he seems to be coming to the end of his life. In choosing a successor to lead the family his over-eager son looks inadequate and Roman’s ancestors aren’t exactly helpful. They chastise and remind him that his dying is inevitable. To be bitter in the afterlife is an annoying trait in your relatives, they’re constantly reminding you of the obvious. Worse yet you can’t throw them out. But, Roman’s hesitation is appropriate. And it becomes clearer as to why at the end of issue one of ‘Manor Black.’
Though from the cover of this comic Roman’s situation looms in the mind of the reader, writer Cullen Bunn starts this narrative with a car chase, an aborted ritual and a figure in the middle of a country road. It’s as if Bunn is saying sometimes the only way to survive in a small town is to drive through it. That warning makes for a great gothic tale wrapped within an urban legend. The artwork’s clean lines give those first panels a sense of frenzied urgency. Five characters trying to escape something that is wrapped from head to foot in the dark are clearly seen, the terror is on their faces. What’s more the small town this is happening in isn’t equipped to handle the large crater in the forest, and especially what happens to the sheriff. Just what is going on in this place?
The woman from the cover, Ari is just as much a mystery as Roman. She’s definitely a key to what’s happening, but that doesn’t reveal why she’s important. This barely 30-page comic is setting up an amazing narrative with little detail. The supernatural is active throughout this tale that has hands bleeding upward, combustible bodies and a giant, blood filled hourglass still what does it all mean?
Birch County where ‘Manor Black’ is set needs protection. Roman doesn’t have much time left and there are those with low-level magic who are after Ari. If they band together maybe they’ll have a chance. It makes the reader anticipate the next issue. What’s the significance of the trickles of blood flowing upwards? Is it an unspoken oath, can you force it to happen or is it natural? What’s up with Roman’s son? So many questions that need to be answered. In a world where you can binge watch a season of your favorite show, what do you do when you only have the first issue of a comic book? Add this title to your pull list. Meanwhile as you wait for the next installment read it again. It’s worth it.