Comics Features

REVIEW: The Black Feather Falls

Written by Grace Davis

The Black Feather Falls is a new comic by talented writer and illustrator Ellen Lindner. Lindner has previously created a number of comics and graphic novels including Undertow and Shams, Scams and Blind Faith. Currently available as a serial web comic on www.activatecomix.com, The Black Feather Falls is now being published by Soaring Penguin Press. We were allowed a sneak peek at the first two issues and were pretty impressed. Read on to find out why!

Set in the 1920s, The Black Feather Falls begins in London, England. Our heroine is a plucky young woman, Tina Swift, a recent American immigrant who longs to be more than just a shopgirl. After witnessing a crime scene outside of the opticians where she works, Tina decides to pursue a more exciting life in journalism. Unable to shake the unpleasant scene from her mind, she ends up telling a Miss McInteer, a stenographer at the local paper, all about it, plunging the two of them into a world filled with mysteries, adventures and murder. Not the least of which is: who exactly is Tina? A dream in the second issue reveals to the reader that her name is in fact Marlaine – and she seems to be hiding from something in her past.

Tantalising details like these make the story a constant cliff-hanger. After reading each issue I found myself thinking of Black Feather on and off all day, eager to know what would happen next. Good pacing always helps with readability and Lindner has clearly mastered this: the scenes never outstay their welcome, sweeping the reader along with Swift and McInteer on a grand adventure.

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The artwork is bold and beautiful. The pictures are shot through with purple and orange tones which give the comic its own, very strong, style. The curved lines used work well for this style and give the look a visually pleasing softness which doesn’t diminish the strength of the scenes at all. Lindner has done a great job of capturing the time period, her attention to detail in the clothes and accessories alone is impressive.

It’s always good to see a well-written female protagonist – however this story is a bit unusual in having two of them! More often than not comics seems to feature a secondary lead who is male  – nothing wrong with that, of course, but it is nice to see two women taking charge. What’s more, neither of them is relegated to stereotype girly-girl status – a trope writers often seem to fall into in order to make their tough heroine stand out that much more, especially in a period setting. Lindner has neatly avoided this, making both characters very individual, well-rounded people. It isn’t even hugely relevant that they are female – they just happen to be!

My only grumble with Black Feather is that the characters’ motivations don’t always seem very consistant. McInteer is at first very interested in the crime and asks Tina to go for a walk so they can talk privately. After delivering exposition about the history of feathers in WW1, McInteer reluctantly agrees to see if the police will take the case seriously. When this doesn’t happen McInteer counsels to Tina to leave it be and try to forget what she saw.  After nothing but a second’s silence from Tina, McInteer is blurting out that she knows the city, the police and can help Tina. I understand the need to move the story along but this seemed a little quick and unrealistic – especially considering McInteer’s gruff and skeptical character. This aside, the characters are well-written and fleshed out enough for the reader to care about them. And, as a reader, I really did care – I’m genuinely looking forward to reading further.

So, while I await the next installment, I urge you all to go and catch up on the delightful mystery that is The Black Feather Falls.

Books one and two of The Black Feather Falls are now available from Soaring Penguin Press. The serialised comic can be viewed here, or you can check out Ellen Lindner’s website here for more information on this and all of her other work.

About the author

Grace Davis