Monday, February 23, 2009

The Darkness #75

Nearly every artist and colorist still on-staff (and one or two outsiders) join regular writer Phil Hester this month for the anniversary-sized Darkness #75. If something smells fishy and you seem to remember issue #10 shipping just last month, don't worry– you haven't missed sixty-plus issues, Top Cow has merely renumbered the current series to match the combined issue count of the three volumes published since 1996.

In this stand-alone tale set in the distant future, there isn't much hope for the future of mankind. Pollution has grown so widespread, boundless clouds of smog have long since snuffed out any glimpse of sunlight, and for Jackie Estacado that makes for one hell of an advantage. When you're pulling strength from the shadows, a world wrapped in a persistent black shawl is your oyster.

Phil Hester's writing this month is impressive, both in concept and in execution. His musings on the climax of modern civilization and the end of the world are chilling, and the prose with which he delivers his narration is imaginative and vivid. We don't need to see the yellow foam that floats along the surface of this world's oceans, Hester has painted that picture for us himself, liberating the artwork to tell a separate, secondary story. Hester's vision of a world governed by Estacado is cold and unrelenting, just like his portrait of Jackie himself, so many years removed from his humanity. It's a grim, bleak future to match the title character's personality and the origin of his powers.

Despite the quality of Hester's writing, I found that some of the issue's magic is lost on the glut of different artists that were forced upon it. While the reckless jump from one extreme style to another makes sense in the brief flashback that takes place around the middle of this issue, the same can't be said for the awkward leaps from artist to artist in the midst of a single scene. This is especially problematic when Jackie himself makes his first appearance early in the issue, as his adversaries completely change wardrobe during the pause between pages. It's random and confusing; especially when the two sides begin warring and a nameless third party randomly jumps into the fray. Maybe regular readers will have a better idea of what's going on, but I'd have to imagine that the herky-jerky feeling of changing artists every three pages would put them off, too. There's some genuinely beautiful work here, but it always manages to get lost in the hustle to give way to the next creative team.

In marking an anniversary that's shaky at best and downright imaginary at worst, I think The Darkness wanted too badly to make an event of something that didn't really merit it. Phil Hester did his part, concocting a story deserving of such attention, but a cavalcade of artists and a dozen superfluous pages turn the whole thing sour. As a regular-sized issue with a steady artistic showing, this could've been a genuinely memorable one-off, but it's not an event unto itself. Borrow it – its shortcomings are distracting, but it's nevertheless a solid bit of story.

On a scale of 1 to 10, where 1 is poor and 10 is amazing...
Overall Score: 7

No comments: