Review by Ian Keogh
Ten years ago Nina was the only one who remembered events following an earthquake. These involved a group of magic practitioners known as Paragons, thought to be just rumours, and a giant turquoise lion. Genuine though they were, they were also so fantastic that no-one believed Nina, and the path from that led directly to her current dissolute life where her sister tries to look out for her, but can’t effectively combat Nina’s worst inclinations.
Sam Humphries and Jen Bartel construct a sorry life for Nina, with the allure of something magical yet unattainable restricting her real life progress. Her life since the incident is shown in flashbacks, harsh even without her own problems, and this is amid the surprise present day return of the Paragons and learning that she’s somehow become a target for some very nasty individuals.
Bartel’s attractive art hits all the right emotional beats, but there’s a sense of unreality about Nina’s world because she never includes any more people than necessary in a scene. Nina walks empty streets and visits empty locations, although as Nina has considerable internal anger, Bartel draws a great grumpy young woman.
Ultimately, Nina’s background and personality is strongly established, but Humphries never manages to kick Blackbird beyond standard fantasy scenes. There’s a concern to lay out a complicated background with magic attached to gems and assorted clans not quite at war, but edging toward it, and while Nina being the way into it is smooth enough, too much feels like setting up the future rather than prioritising the here and now. It muddies what could have been a far more effectively human story if told at a slower pace, and while it’s possible that Humphries might turn things around in a sequel, the ending isn’t greatly promising. As it is, there has been no sequel, and that’s probably for the best.