Baraka and Black Magic in Morocco

By Rick Smith
128 pages, two-color
Published by Alternative Comics

When told properly, I adore reading travelogues. There’s something fascinating about reading other people’s experiences in far-off places that I may never experience for myself. Through their eyes, I’m able to better get an idea of just what this part of the world is truly like. That’s probably why I was instantly intrigued by Rick Smith’s upcoming graphic novel Baraka and Black Magic in Morocco; I knew from Shuck Comics that Smith can tell a story, and I suspect the closest I’m getting to Morocco in the near future is the EPCOT Center at Disneyworld, so this seemed like a perfect book for me.

In Fall 2000, Rick Smith and his wife Tania Menesse journeyed to the country of Morocco in North Africa. What they found were friends, ever-shifting rules, scams, moments of beauty, and drugs. In short, a trip to remember for a very long time.

Those expecting to find something an over-arching plot driving Baraka and Black Magic in Morocco (“It’s a search for the hidden Moroccan city of black magic!”) are going to be awfully disappointed. Baraka and Black Magic in Morocco is a book where you’re along for the ride in a very different world than the one the author is from. Smith knows how to make that interesting, though; all the little struggles and victories are enthralling because for Smith and his wife, it is the entire focus of their world at that moment in time. Smith gives a fair representation of the people of Morocco here, showing both the positive and negative parts of their journey with equal candor. Nothing’s whitewashed here, from Menesse’s frustration at the country towards the end of their journey to bad decisions made by our traveling companions. By the time you’re done reading Baraka and Black Magic in Morocco, you get a real sense of what this journey was like, because you feel like you’ve been there with them.

Smith’s art in Baraka and Black Magic in Morocco reminds me a little bit of Chester Brown’s, with its simplistic shapes hiding a very powerful emotion behind them. In a book that hinges on Smith and Menesse’s emotional reaction to the events around them, he does an excellent job of portraying that through the art. From the swarm of children around Smith with even the word balloons boxing him in on all sides, to the vibrations of the drums moving through Smith and his traveling companions, you get a real sense of being there in Morocco. The two-color approach to Smith’s art looks really sharp as well; the added yellow gives the art a real sense of depth, and Smith is careful to only use it when appropriate. I’d love to see more artists use two-color printing; less expensive than full-color, Baraka and Black Magic in Morocco shows how slick the end result can be.

Baraka and Black Magic in Morocco is a fascinating journey into a different world. Those who don’t care for travelogues may be disappointed, but I think it’s fantastic. Smith really shares his experiences in a way that you’ll feel like you were in Morocco as well. I’m ready to take further journeys with Smith whenever he is. Baraka and Black Magic in Morocco has been rescheduled for an October 2004 release. Let your comics retailer know that it’s listed in the current (August 2004) Previews on page 210, or alternatively provide Diamond ordering code AUG04 2362.

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