The Black Plague


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The Black Plague


  • Words: Joe Casey
  • Art: Julia Bax
  • Inks: Julia Bax
  • Colors: Matt Webb
  • Story Title: N/A
  • Publisher: BOOM! Studios
  • Price: $3.99
  • Release Date: Jul 26, 2006

An old criminal gets a new lease on life as the Black Plague goes into action after years of retirement. Is it the same man under the mask? And what does he want?

Joe Casey is a strong writer with an amazing amount of versatility. He has proven his talents with titles as diverse as the existential Gødland and the interstitial Fantastic Four: 1st Family. With The Black Plague he takes another stab at creating a superhero universe from whole cloth and populating it with a diverse criminal element.

Martin and Sydney were once the heroic White Knight and his archenemy the Black Plague respectively. Now they are two old men who play chess in the park and reminisce about the old days. Or are they? While Martin and Sydney play, elsewhere, a group of criminals are sealing a deal. A couple of renegade mobsters are selling...something...to S.L.A.S.H., the Science Liberation Army of Superior Humanity. The deal is almost complete when the Black Plague arrives to hijack the proceedings... in a very violent way. Backed up by a Yakuza gang, the Black Plague proves to be as apt as his name implies. There are secrets here, though, and a dangerous game being played. The Black Plague may be more and also less than what he seems....

Despite Casey’s usual strength with a script, The Black Plague was missing the uniqueness of voice that usually accompanies his writing. The story is apretty textbook example of an introductory issue and that is really its weakness. The idea of a villain hero is not a new one and regrettably Casey doesn’t offer the reader any unique twists on the old story. Even the characters feel stock and there is not enough background for the reader to get invested with them. Much of the dialogue and action scenes are clichéd and lacking in a knowing wink or nod to indicate a deliberate attempt at satire or parody. The result of this leaves the characters stiff.

Unfortunately, the art really does not help to make the story flow any better. Artist Julia Bax’s work has a professional polish and her anatomy is quite well done when the characters are not in action. The problem is that when the action sequences come the characters look posed instead of in motion. Many of the pages seem to come across as a series of stills, rather than flowing action. I will say, however, that her design of a certain Head mobster was well done and a nice, weird touch.

I am aware that this issue was meant to be a one-shot prequel to the mini-series and, as such, it cannot give away all the secrets of the rest of the story. That being said, though, there could have been some sharper hooks in the characters. After all, without the hooks, how can you catch the fish....err...I mean, readers? While The Black Plague was an entertaining riff on the superhero tradition there was simply nothing new or outstanding to convince me to pick up the rest of the mini-series.

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