"Black Fire" Graphic Novel Review
Written by James Ferguson
Published by Archaia Entertainment
Written and Illustrated by Hernan Rodriguez
2012, 177 Pages
Graphic Novel released on January 4th, 2012
You don't have to be a seasoned Risk player to know that Russia can be a dangerous area to get lost in. When two soldiers from Napoleon's army are separated from their unit by an attack from Cossack troops, they seek refuge in an abandoned town. They meet a handful of other refugees from the war, all struggling to survive in this frozen land with no food. The group soon finds out that there's a reason the enemy squad didn't follow them into the town as they uncover an ancient evil that's been trapped there for ages.
Black Fire, written and illustrated by Hernan Rodriguez, builds an epic legend while also focusing on a small group of characters with a lot of tension akin to John Carpenter's The Thing. When you're freezing and stranded with little to no food, it won't take much for you to turn on your colleagues. Everyone becomes paranoid and they're quick to accuse each other when anything seems amiss. It certainly doesn't help matters when a man they thought dead is found strung up with his organs missing. That's just the first of the bizarre things that start to happen to these characters. They get much worse from here.
Rodriguez takes a story that would be interesting in itself (a group of people stuck in a barren town in search of food and warmth) and amplifies the tension with a supernatural element. They are not alone and the unseen being among them is made of some very evil stuff. The story builds to become grander in scale, looking back hundreds of years.
While I enjoyed the story, I thought the dialogue was a bit too heavy on the curse words. I have no problem with f-bombs and the like appearing in comics, but Hernandez seemed to throw them out too much. Granted, I have no way of knowing for sure if soldiers in Napoleon's army actually talked like that or not, but I find it hard to believe that they swore that much.
I wasn't as impressed by Rodiguez's art. He has a unique style and certainly captures the desolation that these characters are feeling, but they often look stiff and wooden. This hurts the book, especially during some of the more tense scenes.
Black Fire is a great example of when historical fiction with a supernatural twist is done right. The story is epic and filled with bloody battles with an immensely powerful villain. It's a tale of good vs. evil with the world on the line, for real though, not like how it is every other day in Metropolis.