This week’s review covers the first collected volume of the comic Inkblot, by Emma Kubert and Rusty Gladd, published by Image Comics. This post contains affiliate links to Bookshop.org, an online bookstore that financially supports local independent bookstores.
Inkblot Volume 1 collects the first six issues of this ongoing series about a librarian sorceress and the magical cat she accidentally conjures.
The Book Witch’s One Sentence Review
A funny, whimsical fantasy that takes readers on a journey through space and time with a curious, magical black cat at the helm.
Inkblot by Emma Kubert and Rusty Gladd
It all begins as the librarian sorceress, known only as The Seeker or Bookworm, is recording the exploits of her extremely powerful sorcerer siblings. She falls asleep while she’s working and knocks over a number of bottles of ink and other things. After the dust settles, as it were, a little black cat with big round green eyes appears.
The Seeker quickly learns that this cat can open inter-dimensional portals when she chases the cat into the Mountain Lands and they almost get eaten by giants. While the kitty in question has no official name or gender, I’m going to refer to them as Inkblot since it’s also the name of the comic.
Although the cat is magical, their only utterance is “mow,” issued with varying inflections and degrees of emphasis. As the story progresses, The Seeker chases Inkblot in several unsuccessful attempts to catch and study them.
The first few issues remain fairly lighthearted as the cat causes mischief by climbing dragons and riding the Loch Ness monster, and we meet a few of The Seeker’s siblings and the Realms they rule.
Toward the end, things take a turn for the serious as we learn more about The Seeker’s past and her youngest brother, Inos. I don’t want to spoil anything, but I am very much looking forward to seeing how the story progresses in future volumes.
The Art of Inkblot
Emma Kubert and Rusty Gladd’s process for creating Inkblot is not the typical writer/artist dynamic. Rather, Kubert draws everything out, Gladd inks it, Kubert colors it, and then Gladd adds dialogue and captions. I like how their creative process echoes the back and forth between The Seeker and Inkblot the cat.
The art is whimsical, but also features bold lines. The color palette is somewhat restrained but not boring—it works well for the mystical fantasy setting. Kubert and Gladd excel at creating exaggerated facial expressions that work well for the comical tone without crossing over into the land of hyperbole or satire.
Inkblot’s only discernible facial features are their big green eyes, but they also use their ears to communicate how they’re feeling to great effect.
The black cat was what drew me to this comic in the first place: I adopted a black cat in November 2019. And just like Inkblot, if she’s not in the exact right lighting, the only facial feature you can make out is her big yellow eyes.
Not Your Typical Black Cat
The black-cat-as-witch’s-familiar trope has been explored and then explored some more, and I love the concept of the black-cat-as-witch’s-foil that turns many of the original trope’s conventions on their head.
Rather than working together for a common goal, Inkblot and The Seeker are always at odds. Inkblot is a quintessential cat: They go where they want, when they want, and they do what they want regardless of what’s going on around them. Inkblot’s antics had me laughing out loud in delight more than once.
The Seeker tries to catch Inkblot, but Inkblot always eludes her grasp. This game of cat-and-sorceress also provides an excellent overview of the world of the comic, as Inkblot travels to different realms and time periods in history.
Inkblot Volume 1 serves as an excellent introduction to the series. It has humor, heart, solid world-building, interesting characters, and beautiful, eye-catching art. The story takes a few issues/chapters to take shape, but with a cat leading the way, who can complain? The meandering pace works well for the characters and story, and invites the reader to sit and stay for a while.
For more great comics featuring felines, check out my “Comics and Graphic Novels Featuring Cats” booklist over at Bookshop.org! Have you read Inkblot? What did you think? Let me know in the comments, or on Twitter @bookwitchblog!