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BlackAcre: Volume 1 by Duffy Boudreau & Wendell Cavalcanti

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<i>BlackAcre: Volume 1</i> by Duffy Boudreau & Wendell Cavalcanti

Writer: Duffy Boudreau
Artist: Wendell Cavalcanti
Publisher: Image Comics
Release Date: May 1, 2013

Maybe you’ve read about the Citadel or Glenn Beck’s Independence, USA, planned communities/theme parks to be built for those proud citizens whose paranoia transcends mere white flight and demands something more militaristic than a typical gated subdivision. Imagine if those towns actually existed and, instead of militia goons and Alex Jones nuts, were populated by the richest and most successful Americans. That’s BlackAcre, a new dystopic fantasy that presents a future America destroyed by class division and religious fanaticism.

Duffy Boudreau doesn’t waste any time setting this up, thankfully. A super-secure city of rich, white alpha types is an easy premise to accept because it’s easy to extrapolate from the current political and economic climate. (Also: there’s this thing called The Hunger Games? And, uh, Bioshock Infinite…). Boudreau cuts straight to the plot, in which a born-and-raised member of BlackAcre’s parentless military is sent on a secret mission out into the post-American wilds to track down a former colleague. With political scheming inside BlackAcre’s walls and violent skirmishes between the cult of the Sacred Yoke and Fallout-style scavengers, Boudreau’s tale balances both intrigue and post-apocalyptic action.

If only memorable characters lived within this world. Protagonist Hull is a personality-free soldier, and the only thing we know about the girl he befriends while held captive by the Sacred Yoke is that she’s really defiant. The BlackAcre bureaucrats are stereotypes of sleazy politicians. Perhaps the most interesting character here is the rotund church functionary who calmly and euphemistically details some of the Yoke’s more unseemly rites.

Wendell Cavalcanti has a nice eye for design—BlackAcre looks like a cross between The Jetsons and a ‘70s Doctor Who set. His figures might be a little too cartoonish for this material, though, and his action scenes are disjointed. There’s a panel where a Gordon Gekko-looking leader backhands an underling that stands out as one of the more off-putting and oddly contorted poses I’ve seen recently in a comic. His work is mostly sufficient, but the occasional awkward composition sticks out more than anything else.

I didn’t dislike BlackAcre, though. It’s a little bland and formulaic, but Boudreau is a smart plotter, building to cleverly-crafted revelations and cliffhangers throughout this collection’s five issues. He also provides enough of a glimpse at this world without burying the reader in background. I’m also interested by certain aspects of BlackAcre’s society that are only hinted at on the page, like the status of women within the community. The leaders all seem to be men, and the only women we see are young, attractive, and obviously occupy subservient roles. Boudreau never quite says that gender inequality defines BlackAcre as much as class, but it certainly seems that way. BlackAcre can be appreciated as craft, even if there’s little emotional heft to the thing.

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