This Week In Spandex – Black Fire

Instead of reviewing another comic book, I wanted to take a moment to a review a Graphic Novel that everyone should know about.  This is also a great time for me to re-announce my love for Archaia.  I have yet to read a book from Archaia that wasn’t fantastic, so whenever I’m able to save enough money to buy a trade, I always try to buy new book from Archaia.  Now, if you enjoy supernatural horror stories that appeal to your inner love of history, you have to pick up a copy of…

Black Fire
Writer & Illustrator: Hernan Rodriguez
Company: Archaia

After a crushing defeat in Russia, the story begins with us following two of Napoleon’s soldiers separated from France’s army while retreating – suggesting this story takes place around 1812.  Taking place during winter, Black Fire quickly reminds the reader that for the majority of human history, the greatest threat to humanity was the brutal cruelty of nature.

Cold, hungry, and being hunted by Cossacks, the two main characters – Ducasse and Serpierre – find themselves chased into a village even the Cossacks fear to enter.  The village is a large mining community that appears to be strangely abandoned by its inhabitants, with only a small group of stragglers from Napoleon’s army and those associated with the campaign also hiding from the Cossacks.  However, while they maybe the only people alive in the village, as they begin to be murdered and explore the village, they realize that they are not alone.

At this point, the story becomes incredibly difficult to review.  So much of the horror comes from the mystery of what caused the villagers to disappear and what is killing the characters off that I can’t discuss it without ruining some great twists and revelations.  Suffice to say, the supernatural elements of the story horrifically and perfectly boil to the surface.  Moreover, the supernatural aspects of this story stand out to me because they brilliantly compliment the terror of having to face a winter with no supplies to keep you alive.

In addition to the story Rodriguez tells in Black Fire, his artwork is amazing.  There is an aspect of the lines that reminded me of how cutting a cold wind could be, and the colors for the natural landscapes have a muted tone that not only captures the bleakness of a hard winter, it allows the few moments with fire to truly convey a sense of warmth and other bright colors to stand out.  Rodriquez also made the brilliant decision to leave what the Cossacks say un-translated.  This decision not only adds to how isolated life could be during this time, it was a great way to start building the tension over what the main threat was in the story.

Many visual horror stories (films, comics, and videogames) that feature possessed corpses often depict these characters as variations of the zombie archetype.  Rodriquez, however, depicts them in a style I’ve never seen before.  In addition to these creatures being horrific, they’re happy to be connected to be connected to this source of evil – an element of the story that only contributes to the suspense.  Rodriquez not only conveys they’re perspective through their words, but his rendering of these possessed bodies illustrates their new found twisted sense of happiness.  In addition to the overall quality of artwork in this book, there are several splash pages featuring the main supernatural adversary that are incredibly drawn and deserve to be featured in art museums.

I can go on and on about the quality of Rodriquez’s writing and artwork in Black Fire (hell, I didn’t even have space to go into how this story deals with Slavic Mythology), but nothing I write can communicate just how good this story is.  So if you’re looking for a great story to read, buy a copy of Black Fire.

You can buy your copy of Black Fire from Amazon here and you can learn more about Archaia from their homepage here.

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