REVIEW: Humor and Genre Playfulness Elevate Black’s Myth #2

The cover to Black's Myth #2, showing Strummer and Carly Barnhardt looking at one another. Strummer, a young woman of color with short curly hair, has her eyes open, while Carly, a young blonde white woman, has her eyes closed.

I enjoyed issue one of Black’s Myth, but I’m glad to say that issue two elevated the story from fun but somewhat unremarkable noir to something that feels truly exciting.

Black’s Myth #2

Wendell Cavalcanti (Artist), Eric Palicki (Writer), Rob Steen (Letterer)
Ahoy Comics
August 11, 2021

The cover to Black's Myth #2, showing Strummer and Carly Barnhardt looking at one another. Strummer, a young woman of color with short curly hair, has her eyes open, while Carly, a young blonde white woman, has her eyes closed.

The issue opens with Strummer asleep next to an awake woman in her bed. The woman leaves her, meeting Ben along the way. It’s revealed that she’s Carly Barnhardt, whose case he and Strummer have just closed. Though she makes a speedy exit — not without asking Ben to remind Strummer that she’s got her number — it’s these little touches that elevate Black’s Myth issue two to something I’m eagerly anticipating.

To take a bit of a detour, I think we sometimes undervalue the effect that a small, fresh spin can have on a familiar genre. The fact that Strummer is the queer female protagonist of a genre so often rife with misogyny — even in its neo form — does change things. You can still have your dames with legs for days and corruption at every turn, but we’re less likely to run into women who diverge from the norm vilified for that and nothing else.

Wendell Cavalcanti’s art also does an excellent job of blending our expectations of noir — stark blacks and whites, heavy shadows, and so on — with modern cars, fashion, and dialog. At first glance, Cavalcanti’s art looks vintage; the bold lines and stark shadows harkening back to pulpy genre comics from previous generations. These comics still exist, of course, but you’d be forgiven for thinking that Black’s Myth is an older comic until you look closer. That’s the sort of playfulness that works in the series’ favor, drawing you in with one familiar thing and catching you off-guard with something new. It’s surprisingly subtle, too; in the panels below, there’s enough repetition that you think you know what’s going on, but the details invite you to look closer. Carly’s expression is worried in the second panel, but her gesture in the third suggests exasperation, likely with herself, and as the issue moves forward we start to see why.

This relationship, brief as it is, humanizes Strummer in a way that was missing from the first issue. She now feels less like a generic cool girl and more like a person, especially because Barnhardt is fond enough of her to want her to call, despite the potential problem of sleeping with your hired PI when you’re alleging infidelity in your divorce case. It makes us want to know more about what Barnhardt sees in Strummer, especially because their relationship is both taboo (again, you probably shouldn’t sleep with your PI) and short-lived.

Three panels from Black's Myth #2. In the first, Strummer is shown sleeping alone. in the second, a woman sits up behind her, clutching sheets to her chest, while Strummer sleeps in the same position. in the third, the woman looks up and says, "Oh, hell," while strummer continues to sleep.

But it’s not just Strummer who sets Black’s Myth apart, either. In this issue, we’re introduced to a sort of homme fatale: Rainsford Black, the owner of the silver bullets responsible for the murder attempt on Strummer in the previous issue. In issue two, Strummer convinces Ben to join her in investigating Black’s missing bullets — there should be thirty, but two are missing — and the two journey to his mansion, which seems to be full of taxidermied cryptids and other mythic figures. The aesthetic is great, if, unlike Strummer and Ben — a werewolf and djinn, respectfully — you are not yourself a cryptid.

This issue also introduces a bit more levity than the previous one to great effect. Strummer’s exchanges with Ben have more humor than the previous issue, and Ben also has some wonderful exchanges with a character introduced at Rainsford’s taxidermy cryptid menagerie. Again, this fleshing out of the tone and characters gets Black’s Myth out of what felt like a satisfying but somewhat rote noir pattern in the first issue.

There are enough dangled hints that the story could progress in a number of directions. Like any good mystery, we’ve got enough clues to feel informed, but not so many that we’ve already figured out where things are going. I’m glad that I stuck with Black’s Myth through issue two and am excited to see how this mythical take on crime and noir fiction develops.

Melissa Brinks

Melissa Brinks

Melissa Brinks is a freelance writer and co-creator of the Fake Geek Girls podcast. She has an affinity for cats, cooking, gardening, and investing copious hours of her life in fictional worlds of all kinds.

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