We’re Gonna Need A Bigger Fly Swatter: Advance Review Of Blackwood #4

by Rachel Bellwoar

With the future of Blackwood unknown, Blackwood #4 ends its run stubbornly as a miniseries. Did it ever claim to be anything else? Of course not, but where an unknown fate can sometimes persuade a series to loosen its belt, and give away more than was planned, in case the outcome’s unfavorable, Blackwood doesn’t do that.
Such restraint is to the miniseries’ benefit, and that’s what’s important here, but it does feel like a gamble, if this is to be the last we see of Blackwood University. While the Bug Lady sets off a plague to wipe the school off the map, we’re given the full story behind her and Dean Ogden’s acquaintance. Writer, Evan Dorkin, writes with more stories to tell. The question is whether we’ll get a chance to read them someday.

Along with his credit as letterer, the layouts for Blackwood are attributed to Andy Fish, and it feels like something’s culminating as soon as you see artist Veronica Fish’s, opening page. Despite being sprawled out across campus, all the keys players are accounted for in two columns of embedded boxes, while the threat about to unite them takes up the foreground, centered between the columns. A widescreen panel at the bottom gives distinction to the main characters, minus Denis (RIP), who was discovered dead last issue.
During the ensuing battle, the occasional switch to widescreen panels breaks up the action (there’s no better way of introducing a flamethrower than having one blaze across the page). Some of the attacks might trigger memories of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, when Cordelia and Xander were attacked by the Bug Man in Season Two. While they had the advantage of being indoors, moving the battle outdoors means there’s nothing to separate Blackwood’s faculty from the dirt floor beneath them, which makes the situation feel more desperate against an insect enemy.
The adults are being the most heroic we’ve ever seen them, but there’s selfishness in them yet, lest you fear they be unrecognizable. One of the teachers creates a force field for protection, but it isn’t for the whole school (and wherever the rest of the freshman class is hiding while this transpires). It purely exists to protect other teachers.
I’m not usually one to debate reading a series monthly, versus waiting for the trade. I personally mix it up, and more because of impatience or money, than wondering if the story will read better uninterrupted or in increments, but with Blackwood (and without finding fault in how the series has been divided), I can see how December‘s trade will suit the series well. Last issue, after a different bug plague, it seemed like the series skipped over explaining how they escaped, and there was no reason to think they would go back and fill in the details. A month later, and that gap isn’t a gap after all, with an answer provided while they’re dealing with the second plague. What seemed like an oversight then might not register as such if you’re reading the trade edition.
Ultimately, Blackwood‘s legacy won’t be cemented until it’s clear whether or not it will continue (and if it does, it might be neat to see Dorkin and Fish switch to an ongoing run, instead of another miniseries, to better accommodate a school year), but for now we’ve survived one story at Blackwood U. Time will tell whether we survive another.
Blackwood #4 goes on sale August 29th from Dark Horse.

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