By Andy Kunka
Back in December, Derek and I reviewed a bunch of Image #1 issues that had come out recently: Great Pacific, Comeback, Nowhere Men, Clone, Bedlam, and BlackAcre. At the time, I said that I liked the premise and worldbuilding that had gone on in BlackAcre, but I wanted to see if the plot moved beyond the Heart of Darkness influence into something more original.
Now, the first trade collection of BlackAcre, a story of a dystopian future written by Duffy Boudreau and penciled by Wendell Cavalcanti, has been released, and the five issues collected here do provide a twist on the Heart of Darkness plot while also extending the political commentary that is the most intriguing part of the series’ premise.d that I liked the premise and worldbuilding that had gone on in BlackAcre, but I wanted to see if the plot moved beyond the Heart of Darkness influence into something more original.
The series is set in a future America in which the wealthiest citizens have successfully entrenched themselves in the opulent, technologically advanced walled city of BlackAcre, while the rest of America is left to fend for themselves in the anarchy and depleted resources outside the wall in an area known as the Hinterlands. Hull, a guard on the wall facing his retirement, is sent on a mission to the Hinterlands by Executor Sinclair, a BlackAcre official who has been running his own clandestine black ops for some time. Hull’s mission is to find and capture Greene, Hull’s former colleague who has been missing in the wilderness outside the wall for three years. Sinclair, however, is facing some internecine conflict with fellow BlackAcre leaders who fear Sinclair is getting too ambitious.
Outside BlackAcre, another struggle is going on in the Hinterlands, with an extremist religious group known as the Yoke gaining more and more control over the loosely organized groups of survivors. Here is where the political nature of this story becomes even more interesting. Boudreau established early in the first issue how the rich progressively drove the American economy into the ground while benefiting themselves and ultimately gaining political control that led to the creation of BlackAcre. Boudreau makes clear how this future world could extend from our own current political and economic conditions. As the series progresses in these first five issues, Boudreau also explores how the Yoke spreads its influence through violence and evangelism. The world Boudreau creates, then, is one in which the liberal left has been marginalized out of existence, and the American political spectrum that’s left consists of capitalist interests on one side and religious fundamentalists on the other. The overarching plot of the series is building toward a climactic battle between these two ideologies.
The political commentary, however, does not become heavy handed, but instead serves the story of Hull’s quest. Hull is an interesting character whose true allegiances, once he ends up with the Yoke, are unclear. In addition, the intrigue surrounding Sinclair points to fractures in the delicate structure that holds BlackAcre together.
This series moves at a good clip, with many of the plot elements set up in the first issue resolved by the fifth. Cavalcanti’s art improves as the series progresses as well. This first trade is priced at $9.99, so it’s well worth checking out.