REVIEW: 'Black Tape' #1 by Dan Panosian, Dalibor Talajic, and Ive Svorcina



Writer: Dan Panosian
Artist: Dalibor Talajic, Ive Svorcina
Letters: Steve Wands
Publisher: AWA
Release Date: February 1, 2023
Cover Price: $3.99

Jack King was a rock'n'roll god who projected a stage persona on par with the devil. After Jack dies on stage, his widow, Cindy, grapples with grief and struggles to protect his legacy, unaware that she is being surrounded by dark forces that covet the master tapes to Jack's final, unreleased album - a heavy metal masterpiece that just might open a doorway to hell.


★★★★☆ (4/5)

'Black Tape' #1 by Dan Panosian, Dalibor Talajic, and Ive Svorcina is an intriguing and surprising new mini-series that honors its characters, specifically the widow of a rock star, who must navigate through her grief while being bombarded by friends, associates, and strangers. The premise is more supernatural than this, promising dark forces that covet the departed Jack King's unreleased album that could also serve as a gateway to hell. And while that's the direction it will ultimately get to, issue one rightly focuses on Cindy in mourning. 

Panosian builds this world that Jack and Cindy shared through the people in their orbit. The agent, the record company exec, an extroverted friend, and all the company types that worked around them. It's an interesting way to introduce the characters going forward and perhaps how they might play a part in the darker situations to come. We learn very little about Jack as he dies on stage at the very beginning so the story is centered around Cindy. The poor widow encounters many people expressing their condolences and you wonder whose empathy is genuine and whose isn't. It's a very sad sequence of events but Panosian treats Cindy with kindness while also slyly informing the reader of what Jack was up to until his death. 

Fans of Panosian's art might be disappointed that he's not pulling double duty here but they needn't worry because Dalibor Talajic does an incredible job of transporting readers back to the early 1970s. Talajic's attention to detail from interior design to fashion squarely places the story in an undeniable age gone by. The attention is on Cindy and Talajic captures all the appropriate emotional beats required to convey the necessary sadness and grief that draws empathy. Ive Svorcina's colors are deep, rich, and dark except when mimicking the blazing bright southern California sun. The last pages reveal what the artists can do when things get weird and spooky so there's a lot to look forward to. 

For a book described to have dark forces at play in a story about a rock star, issue one may leave some readers scratching their heads as to where all the supernatural stuff is. Where is this doorway to hell and those who seek to get their hands on this unreleased heavy metal masterpiece? That isn't answered yet because Panosian has decided to focus on the toll of a high-profile death and humanize the consequences of that through her widow. He could have easily rushed to the spooky stuff and been performative with this guy's death just to get there but this is a slow-burn where readers get the full landscape of 'Black Tape' before things turn supernatural. We're more invested in Cindy and her experience because of it. 

'Black Tape' promises to get heavy into the dark forces that face the widow of a rock star. Issue one lays the foundation for what's to come with extraordinary thoughtfulness and empathy for the characters. What awaits them and the readers is a growing tension that could very well be a descent into hell. Panosian's deliberate pacing and emotional examination of grief set the stage for some macabre events to come. It's definitely worth getting on board to see what horrors lie ahead.