The Electric Black: The Children of Caine (#0, FCBD) – Joseph Schmalke, Rich Woodall

3 out of 5

If you’ve read other Electric Black issues, this is a pretty smart kinda sorta retcon way for creators Joseph Schmalke and Rich Woodall to package their unwieldy partial anthology series into something that feels more focused than it actually is. The downside of that, of course, is that if it encourages you to go out and find other EB books, you’ll like be a bit disappointed – the lore that’s played up here is rather splattered across those books. On the upside, it makes for a good hook issue (still with story-telling herky-jerk in tow, of course), and if this is evidence of how our creator duo are planning to approach future entries… well, that’s promising.

In keeping with that ‘partial anthology’ bit, half this issue is Schmalke and focuses on The Electric Black and related “darkness;” half is Woodall and focuses on The White Lodge. Both have significant Biblical nonsense being wended into the general good vs. evil concept, but that’s overly dismissive: I stlll think the way Joseph and Rich have darted around typical defintions of that moral duality – there are shades of gray on both sides, and maybe “the light” is darker than the shadows in some regards – is intriguing, and even though I roll my eyes at every new religious namedrop, it’s in line with how kind of kitchen sink this whole thing has been.

Schmalke’s art is sketchy as ever, but works especially well here, as their half of the book bounces around between characters and some action, and the lines add to the momentum; Woodall has really upped their game, though, with some more challenging layouts and a lot of talking heads that are managed well.

There’s zero conclusion – kind of a Black Caravan tic by this point? – and the book retains the somewhat clunky see-what-sticks plotting style, but this FCBD’s focus on Electric Black lore gives that style a central focus around which to spin, making it a fun read.