In Review: The Black Knight #1

Zenescope has created another outstanding series that deserves to be followed.

The covers: A lucky thirteen to capture if Peyton Parks will allow it. The A cover is by Sam Chen and Ivan Nunes. This has the Black Knight on her equally ebony colored steed in Lower Manhattan. The hero looks fantastic and she shows the reader she’s armed with a long sword. The character looks great and the background setting is outstanding. The B hails from Igor Vitorino and Hedwin Zaldivar and is the action cover. The Knigh leaps in the air, her sword flicking down and up to slit the throat of one of the thugs attacking her. She looks killer, the men skeevy, and the colors perfect. I really like the light from above and all that red is impossible to miss. The C is one heck of a powerful cover by Jay Anacleto and Nunes. This has Peyton transforming into the Black Knight. Red energy explodes from behind her head, her hair whips upwards, armor appears on her shoulders, the mask and cape generate before her. Great cover with outstanding coloring. I really love the intensity of her face. This is incredibly dramatic. The D is by Alan Quah, Komikaki Studio, featuring Fish Tail. The Knight holds the scales of Justice in her left hand before the reader, while in her right she holds her sword. The character looks outstanding, but the background is too pale. A brighter colored background (pink, a vivid blue, even yellow) would have been preferable. Leonardo Colapietro is the sole artist of the E cover. This is a terrific, trippy cover that has the title character from the waist up looking to the right. Behind her is a monstrous dragon circling about. The coloring is outstanding and the look of this is flat out amazing. This is one to search for! The F is the Blank Sketch cover. I am a big fan of these covers that allow fans to find their favorite artists to create a one of a kind frontpiece or get the creators of this issue to sign. However, on their own they’re not much to look at. I could only find two of the final seven covers covers. The London MCM Excluisve (limited to 250 copies) is by Paul Green and Ula Mos, A Place in Space Exclusive (limited to 250) is by Green and Zaldivar, The London MCM Exclusive (limited to 25) is by Green and Zaldivar. The New York Comic Con Oktoberfest Exclusives (limited to 350/150/50) are by Green and Zaldivar, and I was able to find images of the 350 and 150 editions. They feature, I assume Belle, who is dressed in appropriate skimpy attire for the celebration. She holds two bubbly glasses of beer in her hands. The 150 edition has her wearing her iconic mask and has forgone her Germanic clothing for a rose print bra, panties, and matching stockings. I couldn’t find an image of The VIP Exclusive (limited to 250) is by Jamie Tyndall and Mos. Good luck, collectors! Overall grades: A A, B A+, C BA+, D B-, E A+, F C, Oktoberfest 350 A+, and Oktoberfest 150 A+ 

The story: Inside a courtroom in Lower Manhattan, the Black Knight is surrounded by five men with Uzis who have just mowed down five police officers so that they can murder Nikolai Bakunin, an ex-hitman for a Russian mob family. As the gallery clears, the Knight deflects bullets with her shield to protect the man. Erroneously, she calls the man Nik, prompting him to ask how she knows his name. Thankfully, the gunmen have been reloading their weapons, but now done they begin to fire, stopping any further questions. Unfortunately, the men are shooting at the people making for the exit. Using her sword, she breaks Bakunin’s shackles so he can take cover, while she launches herself between the shooters and the innocents, saving as many as she can. Just as things get dire, the Black Knight flashes back to five weeks earlier, where as Peyton Parks the protagonist argues before a judge that Bakunin should be tried privately so as not to be a public target. This is clever storytelling by Joe Brusha, Ralph Tedesco, Dave Franchini, and Terry Kavanagh, with the latter actually writing the issue. This flashback introduces the reader to Peyton, her assistant Brin Lang, Assistant D.A. Jackson Lassiter, and District Attorney Chase Sinclair. This allows the reader to experience Peyton’s world before returning to the chaos in the courtroom and her alter ego of the Black Knight. When the action does resume in the present, the reader sees that the hero is more than capable of using her sword in a deadly way and arranging for her own unique transportation. Two sets of antagonists are then introduced: Nadia Vasiliev and Vadim Grigor. The last foe has been called by his cousin to help with the family’s problems. This is a tightly written tale with the hero introduced, her abilities shown, and the conflict established through warring Russian mobs. This is a perfect introductory issue. Overall grade: A

The art: Sergio Ariño is the book’s artist and he’s outstanding. The book opens with a full-paged splash showing the heroine fully on display, armed with her sword and shield. She’s surrounded by armed men, the shocked judge can be clearly seen on the bench, and a trio of dead guards on the floor in the foreground communicate to the reader what’s occurred. The next two pages contain slightly slanted panels that spread across 2 and 3 to increase the illustrated tension. The crowd runs, the Knight deflects bullets, the bad guys reload and quickly discuss their next move. The people racing away are very well detailed and the panel showing the Knight in action is exciting. The line work is very fine on every character, especially on the villains with the showing of a tattoo on the back of one thug’s neck a good hallmark of the gang. The slanted panels continue on 4 and 5 with the largest panel focusing on the Knight deflecting bullets from a crowd. A small panel that follows this reminds the reader that she’s not perfect. A fanning panel sequence on 6 further intensifies the action, with one of the gunmen getting some excellent focus at the end of the page. The three pages that follow clearly introduce Peyton and the supporting cast to the reader with each emoting well. The backgrounds are also very well done. The point of view that opens and closes Page 9 is really strong. The close-up at the bottom of 10 is beautiful. The action and entrance on 13 is exactly what comic fans want to see. The killing on 14 is shocking, but is only a prelude to the graphic action on 15. The fourth panel of this page beautifully symbolizes the calm after a storm. The full-paged splash on 17 is cool, but the bottom half of the illustration is spent on setting rather than character: pulling in tighter to the character would have been more dramatic and more preferable than looking at debris. Page 20 is an impressive page that’s often lacking in most hero books and with only three words of text it’s on Ariño to tell the story with his visuals and they look great. The last page is another full-paged splash and it’s an absolutely necessary one for whom it introduces. I’m really liking the visuals on this book. Overall grade: A

The colors: Enriching the artwork are the colors by Robby Bevard. Characters in black often disappear into backgrounds making the artwork a mystery, but that’s not the case with this issue. On the first page the hero can easily been seen. I like how the characters in the foreground have been given darker colors so the reader will focus instead on the Black Knight. I also like how the title character’s narration boxes are given a blue coloring, allowing the reader to instantly identify whose thoughts are being read. The bullet ricochets really pop in white, while they’re given yellows sounds to resonate. The violet used for the interior of the Knight’s cape provides a cool backdrop for her when she moves. When blood goes flying, and it does, crimson really stands out. The floor in Peyton’s office is beautiful in tans and off-whites. Brin and Peyton’s hair is beautifully colored. The lighting effects done with colors on Brin’s face on Page 10 are outstanding. The hues used to denote the night on 20 – 22 are really good, with the cheesy violet neon on 21 and 22 excellent. The final page has a neat use of electric green that will leave the reader wondering what it will bring. Overall grade: A

The letters: Saida Temofonte is the book’s letterer and she creates scene settings, narration, dialogue, yells, sounds, whispered speech, and the tease for next issue. I tip my hat to Temofonte for differentiating the narration from the dialogue; it’s a little thing, but it’s something I always associate with superior letterers. The scene settings are bold block letters that are set off by a neat underlining. There are several different types of yells so that the reader may better hear their intensity. There are several sounds in this book and they wonderfully increase the action. Overall grade: A

The final line: This is the type of action packed hero book that all companies want: great story, excellent visuals, cool colors, and strong lettering. If this is the way this series begins, I can’t wait to see where it’s headed. Zenescope has created another outstanding series that deserves to be followed. Get yourself a copy! Overall grade: A

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Patrick Hayes was a contributor to the Comic Buyer's Guide for several years with "It's Bound to Happen!" and he's reviewed comics for TrekWeb and TrekCore. He's taught 8th graders English for 20 years and has taught high school English for five years and counting. He reads everything as often as he can, when not grading papers or looking up Star Trek, Star Wars, or Indiana Jones items online.
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