The Black Rubric is a satirical comic that indulges in a little bit of darkness alongside self-discovery tell tales. Kate Fleming’s well-drawn art and lettering by Hassan Otsmane-Elhaou heavily compliments Chris Mole’s crafty little script. All of these parts come together to tell the misadventures of a black metal band, playing with devils and demons, and finding harmony and content in their sound.
The highlight of the comic is definitely its clever writing. Each piece of text never fails to bemuse. In particular, the dryness in tone of the first-person narration offers, to some morbid extent, real life use and implications. For example, parts of the closing statement sums up the basic lessons learned in the short span of thirty pages: “You don’t need to surrender your soul or mind to a demon to achieve greatness.” Taken at face value, it may elicit small chuckles or bouts of confusion. However, the underlying heart laced through its casual and standoffish delivery does offer some helpful advice.
The effectiveness of the script owes its thanks to the stylistic choices made. The use of safari windows is an interesting form of driving narration; instead of your typical boxes, you are confronted with modern storytelling. Using bold on certain words help with the delivery of tone and emotion. This creates voice and brings the comic to life. Furthermore, the use of first-person narration sets further tones of being lost, frustrated and laid back. This encompasses the overall tone of the main character and the comic itself. It helps show perspective within Attila, the man possessed, and adds personality to the narrator. This is super indulgent in an immersive sort of way.
Following close to the script is the brilliant use of lettering. Lettering is a good substitution for sound and music. It visualizes the kind of chaotic energy the songs they play exude. This is especially true for when they were practicing the newly written song. The disarrayed words littered across the page highlight how out of tune they were with each other. The monochrome color palette also works alongside the lettering. It highlights rhythmic black metal, embodies gothic elements of the comic (in example, Attila being a gothic-derived name), emphasizes the use of satire, and accentuates the impact of the lettering.
The monochrome palette flows well with the modern style of art. The art presents each character, main or extra, with their own distinctive features. This again results to a livelier world within the comic’s realm. All these different aspects come together into one cohesive style that perfectly suits the story the comic is trying to tell.
My biggest criticism with The Black Rubric is the lack of depth in tackling the lore of demons. I do see that thirty pages remain limited and contrived to truly be able to explore a seemingly complex fantastical world. However, the satirical tone lends the story space to marvel in all things absurd and macabre. In a sense, it does achieve the idiosyncrasies offered by such a genre. It compliments somber tones with black metal music and apathetic recklessness. Still, it doesn’t go all out in terms exploring the demon side of things. It shies away using typical tactics of dry humor and ludicrous dialogue. The lack of world-building can often be useful in other specific media that deals with the fantastic. However, in this particular comic, it fails it and leaves a sense of something lacking in the story provided.
I believe The Black Rubric is a fantasy-driven read that indulges in a little bit of casual darkness. It balances a craving for that edgy sort of media, while still stimulating an intelligent lust for analysis and exploration. Even with such a distinct lack of world-building and lore expansion, it still manages to satisfy with everything it offers. From the art, the color, the lettering and the script; all of these things have multiple layers that connect with each other. This forms an extremely nuanced, overly casual, yet simplistic read that I very much enjoyed.