FROM THE PUBLISHER: Nina Rodriguez knows there’s a hidden magical world run by ruthless cabals hiding in Los Angeles. And when a giant magic beast kidnaps her sister, Nina must confront her past (and her demons) to get her sister back and reclaim her life. Perfect for fans of SYFY’s The Magicians, the CW’s Riverdale, and THE WICKED + THE DIVINE—don’t miss the first collection of the smash-hit neo-noir fantasy series from fan-favorite writer SAM HUMPHRIES (Harley Quinn, Nightwing) and red-hot artist JEN BARTEL (Black Panther, Mighty Thor)! Collects BLACKBIRD #1-6

Blackbird, the crazy baby of co-creators Sam Humphries and Jen Bartel, is a wonderful surprise. At first glance, the cover doesn’t give too much away- there’s a pretty lady with pretty colors. I almost passed on it but the contrast between the title “The Great Beast” and the image on the cover was intriguing so I opened it up.

The book starts in a familiar-looking room. Bartel’s art in those first pages is simple and comfortable in its detail, with clutter and string lights and all helping it to feel like a room we’ve been in before. When we get outside, the neighborhood and the streets look like streets we’ve driven by in LA. The style sets a great stage for the crazier elements to shine- and they do, rather quickly.

The first of these crazy elements is the great beast itself. The beast further teases the same thing the cover did- wild fantasy layered over the normal and familiar. Triona Farrell colors in a way that is both jarring and complimentary, which works well for a world where magic lives all around us but remains unseen to the uninitiated. The bright, neon-like pastels really give the magic its own distinct look.

This first volume is very focused on world-building but isn’t without some nice intimate moments and character development for the protagonist, Nina, and the supporting characters. I enjoyed being immersed in this new world of modern magic. The fantastic elements seemed that much more beautiful when placed upon the normal backdrop of Los Angeles. As a guy who doesn’t live far from LA, it was neat seeing the great beast descend upon Griffith Observatory and other landmarks make appearances as well. The setting provides an anchor as the story dives deeper into the real radical stuff.

The character design is fun- another extension of the normal vs. fantastic theme. The paragons’ (don’t make a mistake and call them wizards) fashion is kinda far-out, but also containing familiar fashion touches. The theme can even be find in Nina’s characterization. She struggles with real issues like being stuck in a crappy job, grief, popping pills, dealing with a loser dad- and all while being dunked into magic and beasts and gems.

The dunk takes a while, which is nice. Plot points didn’t feel forced on me to the point where I flipped back a few pages on more than one occasion to make sure I didn’t miss anything as new things were subtly revealed. It was nice not knowing (and still not being totally sure) who to trust. It feels like this first volume is setting the stage for Nina’s story to really get going, but there were enough twists, developments, and sweet-looking art to keep me in my seat. If you don’t mind a story unfolding slowly, I recommend this one. It’s a bright, energetic, enjoyable time and I’m intrigued as to where this great beast will lead me to.