REVIEW: Blackacre #1

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Image’s latest is Blackacre, from newcomers Duffy Boudreau and Wendell Cavalcanti. Major Spoilers reviews this comic about a bastion of dystopic civilization amidst the ruins of a crumbling world.

BLACKACRE #1
Story: Duffy Boudreau
Pencils: Wendell Cavalcanti
Colors: Antonio Fabela
Inks: Sergio Abad
Letters & Logo: Aaron Walker
Edits: Rich Amtower
Cover: Michael Avon Oeming
Publisher: Image Comics
Price: $2.99

A STRONG START

Blackacre opens with a clever prologue – a professor lecturing on the “American Dark Age” in the year 2202. He boils the essence of American decline down to two key elements; zombies versus pirates. What follows is an incisive deconstruction of zombie/pirate tropes and how they may relate to current events. Science fiction is at its most valuable not when its looking forward, but when it is revealing something telling about today. Blackacre is definitely a science fiction book that is telling stories about today, whether it is the influence of PMCs, the concentration of wealth or the fevered apocalyptic obsessions now so prevalent. Unfortunately, the rest of the issue doesn’t quite follow through on that great beginning.

The set-up is engaging – during the slow decline of American society, a group of John Galt-types wielded their significant influence to create “the mother of all gated communities,” named Blackacre (in what is a funny legal in-joke). Blackacre is actually the story about this community’s decay, as it has walled itself off from the outside world, which has descended into barbarism. I like this set-up, but the the problem is that the plot and protagonists are not compelling enough. Hull (who I don’t think ever gets a first name) is a paint-by-numbers soldier type. Hull’s only bit of characterization is to trot out the “war isn’t about politics, it’s about the guy next to you” truism, which is done to the point of cliché now. He deals with some typically sleazy, backstabbing politico types before setting out on the classic Apocalypse Now-styled extermination mission. There’s also some time spent with a couple of kids outside the walls dealing with the brutality of one of seemingly many holy wars. None of these characters have anything unique or identifiable about them, nor is the plot (so far) anything I haven’t read before. The story is done well, but it isn’t anything new yet.

GOOD ART IN A BAD WORLD

Wendell Cavalcanti is a good fit for this book. The way he uses frames to tell the story is effective, with the tense scenes coming in fractured, dynamic panels. The layouts keep the story fresh, and his human characters are appropriately detailed and identifiable. It’s a pretty standard slick, well-drawn style. No complaints here, but other than the effective layouts, there’s not much to brag about either.

BOTTOM LINE: CURIOUS FOR THE FUTURE

How good Blackacre is going to be in the coming issues will be decided on how far Boudreau can tale the characters away from their very basic introductions. I can’t express how much I enjoyed the first few pages, and if he can deliver that same quality more consistently in future issues, Blackacre will be a very good series indeed. As it is, I can recommend this book with reservations. If you like post-apocalyptic dystopia and/or military science fiction, Blackacre is a book you will probably enjoy. But unless it makes a leap forward in narrative quality, it is not one for the pull list (yet). Blackacre #1 earns three and a half out of five stars.

Rating: ★★★½☆

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