The Black Mage by Daniel Barnes & DJ Kirkland [ARC REVIEW]
Publisher: Oni Press
Publication Date: October 29th 2019
The School for Good and Evil meets Dread Nation in this subversive original graphic novel where race, history and magic collide.
When St. Ivory Academy, a historically white wizarding school, opens its doors to its first-ever black student, everyone believes that the wizarding community is finally taking its first crucial steps toward inclusivity. Or is it? When Tom Token, the beneficiary of the school’s “Magical Minority Initiative,” begins uncovering weird clues and receiving creepy texts on his phone, he and his friend, Lindsay, stumble into a conspiracy that dates all the way back to the American Civil War, and could cost Tom his very soul.
ARC provided by Oni Press and Netgalley in exchange for my honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review
“This hammer of mine glows with an awesome power and right now, they’re all crying out for me to strike you down! And all of their sorrow tempered by the countless black souls that you’ve oppressed!”
The easiest way to describe this graphic novel is: easily captivating.
Set in a fantasy world, The Black Mage is an #OwnVoices YA Graphic Novel that tells the story of our main character Tom Token, a new transfer student at the magical school of St. Ivory Academy. Known as a historically all white wizarding school, St. Ivory has taken a claimed turn towards becoming more progressive and has accepted its first colored student into its great halls. However, once there Tom begins to notice not everything there is what it seems. With the help of his new friend Lindsay, the two discover that St. Ivory’s holds a deadlier secret than just magic.
I was hooked on this story. From the moment I began this graphic novel, I could not for the life of me put it down. Described as Harry Potter meets Final Fantasy, The Black Mage is a story that deals with the tough issues in a blunt way that makes you think about your own surroundings and history. The main heavier issue that takes front row see in this novel is the topic of racism and how racism is almost still the same as it was back during the civil war.
This novel, does not do subtle at all as it shows blatant racism from past and present, sticking it into readers faces and demanding that it is a noticed topic as the characters from both the past and present fight against the work of the Klan who run and operate St. Ivory (yeah I know–super on the nose). We get a first hand seat at the stereotypical questions and issues that POC deal with when entering a new environment and the both warm and cold reception they can have when they do.
I liked the characters that this story brought forth, though I felt like the development of these characters was null and void except for our secondary main character Lindsay, who actually got a character arc of sorts within the story line. Which I still don’t know how I feel about that. I do wish there was more development with our main character Tom as he gets a glimpse of the truth behind the academy and it’s leaders. I felt like he was super one note and was just a vessel to highlight POC struggle instead of an actual person dealing with these struggles.
The Black-mage is a theme centered graphic novel that is definitely a quick read that will instantly pull you in with its wild color use, beautiful illustrations, and creative spells that are reminiscent of beloved anime such as Sailor Moon and Final Fantasy. If you don’t mind the lack of character development and are a lover of fantasy and anime I highly suggest giving this graphic novel a try!
Huge thank you to Oni Press and Netgalley for sending me an ARC for my honest review! Quotations / graphic taken from an uncorrected proof and may change upon final publication.