Blackbox: Furious Legacy, the review of the final chapter

Blackbox: Furious Legacy, the review of the final chapter
Defining steampunk is not as simple as one might think. Trivially, we could limit ourselves to identifying it as a dystopian version of our reality in which electricity has not played an essential role in social evolution, leaving the entire technological base to be driven by the power of steam. A necessity that led to a precise style from a technical point of view, accompanied by a social vision that relies on concepts such as Victorian compromise and relies on settings reminiscent of Victorian England. Graphically this is the setting, but the high-density steampunk also focuses on a deep social analysis, as happened for Blackbox, the Italian comic series that recently ended with its latest chapter, Furious Legacy.

In the Italian comic scene, steampunk has had little representation. Despite being an intriguing narrative vein, it is often seen as a declination of other series, almost a what if…? purely aesthetic that has taken care to offer variations on the theme, as happened in famous science fiction series of the caliber of Nathan Never. To reverse this trend, in addition to the aforementioned Blackbox, there have been productions that have grasped most of the suggestions of the genre, such as The Steams by Noise Press or the Bonelliano Comic Book The Pioneers of the Unknown.

Blackbox: pure steampunk

Reading Blackbox, however, one has a precise and, perhaps, more authentic vision of the purest connotation of steampunk. The series created by Giuseppe Grossi, in fact, does not just rely on the simple graphic impact offered by this setting, but fully embraces its structural characteristics to make it the backbone of a profound and merciless human story.

Ecronia is a city-state characterized by a rigid discipline, distinctly utilitarian and in which every citizen has a role. There is no free will, everything is decided a priori, through a selection of professions and roles that starts from childhood, when through a work of social engineering children and adolescents are tested within a dynamic that despite having a playful appearance hides a precise aim: to create productive and strong citizens.

A necessity for Ecronia, which periodically faces a sort of generational change, in the form of a ruthless clash between adults and adolescents, in which teachers and students they confront each other to prove who is worthy of being a favorite son of Ecronia. A decidedly cynical and ruthless vision of society, which however finds its foundation in the setting of Blackbox, a structure that brings us back to the essence of steampunk.

It is not enough, we said, to insert the presence of giant gears. and random puffs of smoke to define a steampunk project, a moral and social characterization is needed that receives the suggestions of the genre and re-elaborates them, in every respect.

In Blackbox, in hindsight, steam technology is present but with some parsimony. The mechanical concept typical of the setting is not treated as a bulky element on the page, making it the only index of a steampunk story. On the contrary, it is also bent to the needs of the plot, from a tinsel of visual enrichment it becomes an essential but not unique cog to give substance to this universe.

To live and to die in Ecronia

In the five volumes that make up Blackbox (the four albums Futura Memoria, Innocenza Meccanica, Eterna Rebellione and Eredità Furiosa, plus the spin-off L'Alleggeritore) is the overall tone of the work that gives the title the legitimacy to define itself as a good steampunk comic. The dark and acrimonious lives of the characters, characterized by loss and suffering, find an echo in an equally dark color, characterized by acid and sometimes violent shades that echo this complex and poignant family story. Grossi, as a good connoisseur of cinema, knows well how an excellent way to convey the charm of a setting is to show the influence that this exerts in a microcosm such as the family environment, and it is no coincidence that it makes us participate in the drama of a domestic reality caged by these rigid social rules, in which the very essence of human emotion is sacrificed, disheartened but not dormant, in search of a spark of warmth and humanity that allows the protagonists to rediscover the desire to raise their heads and saying a simple enough is enough.

This rebirth of the protagonists passes through the rituals that animate Ecronia, which are told within the four main volumes of Blackbox with an exemplary sensitivity and respect for narrative times. The omnipresent Progetto ELIA, the cyclical struggle between students and teachers and the poignant Day of Lightness are powerful narrative elements, convey and at the same time motivate the intense emotional fabric of the series in an excellent way, making the characters both victims and architects of the story. narrata.

Grossi's merit is to have been able to find a key to interpreting steampunk that goes beyond a purely aesthetic aspect, appealing instead to its narrative soul. Basing such a complex and articulated social structure is not easy, being able to conceive such a dissonant event as the Day of Lightness is a touch of class: an anniversary that seems to celebrate one of the most iconic characteristics of childhood while actually celebrating its ending with a brutal ceremony.

The essence of Blackbox is concentrated in this apparent dissonance. The setting created by Grossi does not shirk the responsibility of offering readers an adult story, told without artifice but with a lively and easily interpretable emotional stratification. A construction that has pushed the authors to go beyond the three volumes, because as happens to great stories in the end the story imposes itself, pushes in other directions and it is right to go along with it, giving it the right space. Whether it's another chapter or a spin-off album like L'alleggeritore, in which the marginal presence of the main protagonists is balanced by a portrait of this restless city seen from a different point of view, but still perfectly in continuity with what outlined above.

Signs of style

Without detracting from Grossi's excellent work in the world building phase, Blackbox was able to establish itself as a good level steampunk thanks to an artistic team that he was able to grasp the nuances of Grossi's world giving them an excellent representation on paper. Monno, Scipioni and Tallarico alternated on the pages of Blackbox, each bringing their own talent while remaining faithful to a visual narrative approach that never loses its uniqueness.

If Monno inaugurates the series with a stroke endowed with a perfect composure and stillness to convey the oppressive urban dimension of Ecronia, it is up to Scipioni to embody the violent and repressed tensions of this society, setting the two central registers of Blackbox to show an angry dynamism and exhaled by close-ups intense characters, often inspired by great actors whose unmistakable mimics Scipioni reproduces with incredible accuracy. Tallarico concludes the saga with Eredità furiosa, a title that finds perfect visual interpretation in its tables, both frenetic and capable of transmitting a complex emotionality.

An integral part of this artistic cast is Gaetano Longo. Author of the beautiful covers of Blackbox, which make up a single fresco of this world, Longo is also the colorist of the series, an essential function of this long story, which is carried out with a painstaking work of shades and shades that are an echo of the oppressive reality and acid of Ecronia. I don't pay, Longo is also the author of the spin-off book, L'Alleggeritore, where he offers an excellent test with an exciting black and white drawing.

When the Blackbox saga comes to an end, it shows itself how a heartfelt and deeply curated editorial project, a steampunk story that has seen the light thanks to Hyppostyle Publishing, yet another demonstration of how deep stories need editorial realities that give them trust.

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