Title: Manor Black.
Writer(s): Cullen Bunn & Brian Hurtt.
Artist(s): Tyler Crook.
Letterer(s): Tyler Crook.
Publisher: Dark Horse Comics.
Release Date: March 3rd, 2020.
Genre(s): Comics, Fantasy, Horror.
My Overall Rating: ★★★☆☆.
There’s nothing more daunting than being given unanticipated responsibilities to deal with when you’re already struggling to understand your place in a world where the odds are always against you. The weight of this burden forces one to juggle with far more emotions than they were already able to handle but to conquer these obstacles would open their eyes to their potential, their path towards discovering their purpose in a world rife with horrors. However, in a place where magic and black arts exist, the journey is bound to be challenging. This first volume by the creators of Harrow County and The Sixth Gun is the beginning of a potential new gothic horror fantasy series and collects the first four issues of Manor Black and adds in a sketchbook section and pinup art by Jill Thompson, Dan Brereton, Greg Smallwood, and Erica Henderson.
What is Manor Black about? Within Manor Black is a family of powerful sorcerers led by the moribund patriarch, Roman Black. While his children are ill-intentioned and desperately seek the blessing of their father to become the next representative of the black arts, he turns his attention to a young lady with magical powers who possess the potential to become a powerful mage that can fight evil and carry on the legacy of his family. Ari, however, has her problems as a mysterious stranger has set his eyes on her and friends, wishing them death and nothing more in this world. It all now comes down to how she will deal with her life when she will cross paths with Roman Black and the colossal responsibility he has for her.
“It is unnatural—inhumane—to deny people access to power. Whether for fear of a level playing field—or fear of how the other half will wield it. All of us here chose freedom… For magic and for ourselves. We chose family. We chose each other. You could do the same.”
— Cullen Bunn
It’s safe to say that this was unimpressive from start to finish. I’d have a tough time even saying that it succeeded in achieving anything that resembles horror too. There’s very little that was properly explored in this first story-arc and no news that they’ve even begun working on the next chapter either. While it suffers from poor character- and world-building, the story still contains some intriguing elements, notably a friendly yet perseverant cop, an unstable supernatural group of delinquents, and strange yet powerful totems. The predictable nature of the story also leads to very few to no surprises in the development of the narrative but the fantasy world remains somewhat enchanting and mesmerizing with its Gothic tone. Only a second volume could enlighten the reader in the direction of this series and their interest in these characters.
Artist Tyler Crook brings back his beloved style in this comic book series as he mixes watercolour, coloured inks, and colour pencils to achieve an enticingly dark and sinister world. His character designs are impeccable, giving them an authentic touch that allows the story to maintain an affinity towards originality without necessarily standing out. The facial expressions are also brilliantly executed, allowing the reader to easily understand the emotional atmosphere, tainted in fear and panic, of the story. The panel structure utilized in this series is also quite traditional, maintaining a classic format that works fine for this series. While there’s very little fault that can be attributed to the artwork, it is mostly the story that keeps this one from properly capturing the reader.
Manor Black is a dull yet promising Gothic horror fantasy tale that never really finds its footing in this first story-arc.