BLACK MAGICK VOL 1Black Magick, Volume 001: Awakening by Greg Rucka and Nicola Scott

Black Magick, Volume 001: Awakening was published by Image Press in 2016. It follows a Portsmouth, New Hampshire police detective, Rowan Black, as she investigates a series of crimes that seem to be pointing at her. It’s worrisome; in addition to being a cop, Rowan is a witch, and these crimes hint at a magical enemy who has targeted both Rowan and her coven. Poised in the potential crossfire is her non-magical partner Morgan, whose wife is about to have their first baby. For whatever reasons, Rowan has not shared her belief system with her colleagues so there is also the risk that uncovering the perpetrator will “out” her.

After a highly visual opening that has the feel of a television teaser, Awakening plunges us right into the story. Rowan is called to the scene of a hostage situation by a perpetrator who demands to speak only to her. When she bargains for the release of the hostages, he reveals that he knows she’s a witch – and he knows things that no one should know. Rowan is forced to use magic to save herself. The next day, she and Morgan are called to a body that’s been fished out of the river. The corpse died of strangulation, and his left hand has been cut off. In the witch world, this signals someone creating a hand of glory, a powerful dark-magic artifact.

SFF, fantasy literature, science fiction, horror, YA, and comic book and audiobook reviewsThe premise of this book caught my eye, but it’s Nicola Scott’s artwork that really drew me in. In keeping with the world-weary, noirish tone of the story, most of the panels are done in a sere sepia tone. Magic, in particular, brings a pop of bright, ethereal colors. Close-ups on faces, and telling details (like Rowan’s badge which is a five-pointed star) add depth and emotional nuance to the story. I like the “cop shop” and Rowan’s day-to-day interactions with co-workers, several of whom are already emerging as rounded characters.

I understand why Rowan may not want to reveal that she is a magical witch, but I don’t understand why she doesn’t just say she’s a Wiccan. And frankly, these cops must be the snobbiest unit in the country; apparently none of them has ever read a genre book or watched a cheesy witchcraft movie on TV. One of the detectives asks Rowan if she is into “that weird stuff” and she means crystals, incense and tea. Yes. Tea. Honestly, read a trashy novel sometime, people! You might learn something useful.

While Portsmouth’s cops know nothing about Wicca or other magics, the book expects its reader to be much more knowledgeable. You are expected to know what a hand of glory is, and you should be able to at least infer the importance of the rowan tree in Celtic belief systems. Frankly, while I enjoyed the book, the “magick” is a bit of a potluck, with Gardnerian Wicca, Celtic paganism and good old-fashioned dark magic, including a hint of beings who exist in a realm beyond the mundane.

SFF, fantasy literature, science fiction, horror, YA, and comic book and audiobook reviewsWhen the story opened I was a bit indignant. The opening pages show us a forest ritual. In the circle of women, most are naked or wearing diaphanous cloaks; they are all long-legged with small waists, very elegant, very pretty. There is one semi-naked man and one man in a cloak to show that the coven is equal opportunity. Rowan and her high-priestess Alex are both drop-dead gorgeous, and I was getting the sinking feeling that this book was going to play off one of the worst “witch” stereotypes. Rowan’s mundane male partner, Morgan, her captain, and Stefan, the operative from the bigoted European witch-hunting group who will probably emerge as a reluctant ally, are all GQ-worthy, studly male specimens, and Stefan gets a nude scene. Then I looked at the splash page of the morning briefing at the cop shop and there is not a pot-belly, balding head or a pair of flabby thighs in the lot, so I have revised my conclusion. (Oh, wait. The captain is going bald in a very stylish way.) This is a book about pretty people of any gender. I did think that Rowan racing around on a motorcycle and living in a huge mansion with no one but her black cat were stereotypical, but I suppose I can survive that.

I’m sure later volumes will explain how she got the mansion – for one thing, it is implied that she and Alex either remember earlier incarnations, or are millennia-old. Volume 001 ends on a cliffhanger. We discover that there is someone after Rowan and it is much more dangerous than some human hobbyist.

I recommend Black Magick; Awakening if you like police-procedural urban fantasy and if you like comic editions with art that is moody and dreamy. I look forward to reading Volume 002.

Rowan Black is a detective with the Portsmouth PD… and a witch, two aspects of her life she has struggled to keep separate. Now someone is targeting Rowan, someone who knows her secrets and means to expose her… or worse. Collects BLACK MAGICK #1-5.


  • Marion Deeds

    Marion Deeds, with us since March, 2011, is the author of the fantasy novella ALUMINUM LEAVES. Her short fiction has appeared in the anthologies BEYOND THE STARS, THE WAND THAT ROCKS THE CRADLE, STRANGE CALIFORNIA, and in Podcastle, The Noyo River Review, Daily Science Fiction and Flash Fiction Online. She’s retired from 35 years in county government, and spends some of her free time volunteering at a second-hand bookstore in her home town.

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