What’s that, you say? A magical black cat causes chaos as it scampers across time, space and multiple planes of existence? Shut up and take my money!
Seriously, since as we’ve already profiled canine serial killer tale Stray Dogs, it seems only fair to provide some coverage for Inkblot, a cat-centred high fantasy adventure also published by Image Comics. Plus, if it has black cats, you know I’m paying attention.
Having debuted during 2020, Inkblot is a highly collaborative effort from third generation comic creator Emma Kubert (yes, those Kuberts) and Rusty Gladd. While the pair handle plotting duties together, Kubert is responsible for pencils and colouring, while Gladd doubles up as writer and inker.
Elevator pitch aside, there’s more to Inkblot than just a wilful, but adorable, black cat unravelling the fabric of the universe. Although, if we’re being honest upfront, that is the series’ most engaging component, especially when it leans into the comedy of recognisably quirky cat behaviour.
Inkblot actually centres on the unnamed Seeker, one of ten immortal siblings who gained power by slaughtering magical beasts millennia ago, and successfully broke down the barrier between worlds. Unlike the rest of her adventurous and militaristic family, the Seeker has stayed behind in her people’s stronghold as a scholar. Her reclusive life is upended, though, when she dozes off and accidentally “sleep summons” a black cat – a literal voidbaby – with incredible power to traverse planes.
Being a cat, the creature does whatever it wants, which throws the universe into dangerous disarray. The Seeker must catch the troublesome feline before it’s too late. The flipside is that its abilities may help our heroine rectify her greatest regret.
One of the most interesting, and unusual, things about Inkblot is that it is created using the Marvel method. Put simply, Gladd and Kubert don’t follow a common, tightly prescribed creative process, where the writer produces a full script for the artist to follow. Instead, loose plot informs the art, and the writer only returns at the end to add dialogue based on the penciller’s panel choices.
The reason Gladd and Kubert’s approach is worth mentioning is because it feels like it’s heavily impacted Inkblot as a series. Read issue by issue, Inkblot is as capricious as its feline star, bouncing around across time and space. Whole issues sideline the Seeker, focusing instead on the cat’s non-chronological, multiverse-spanning adventures. These exploits are action-packed, frequently charming, and increasingly humorous. However, at times, readers may find themselves questioning where the story is going. Just what is the point?
Over time, it becomes apparent that Inkblot has a greater plan, which requires reader patience. It’s the type of comic where you piece together the greater narrative over time. As such, it’s a series that’s probably better read in collected format for big picture perspective. This review is based on Inkblot Volume 1, which collects issues 1 to 6, and it’s only with Part 6 that things start to cohere, and the narrative meandering – however entertaining in its detours – starts to develop purpose.
At the same time, with its generally frenetic pace, Inkblot is light on character development. Several issues in, however, and motivations and personality nuances start to shine through.
It’s not stretching to say that Inkblot trades heavily on its cute factor. The heart-melting depiction of its cat – nothing but giant owl eyes set in solid black – is enough to forgive the book’s shortfalls, like the wandering plot already mentioned, and sometimes scruffy finished line work. Inkblot is a series that encourages you to give up expectations, and just go where it leads you, exactly like its feline star. That “where” just happens to be colourful tales with dragons, elves, sea monsters and sphinxes, often peppered with a sense of wonder that the little black cat’s magic (and spirit) brings to characters’ lives. So it’s not much of a trade-off.
Inkblot is an ongoing series, with Issue 9 set for release on 2 June. The collected first volume is available now. And if you’re still not sure if Inkblot is to your tastes, Image has placed the first issue online to read for free.
Last Updated: May 13, 2021