Comic Review: Dark Ark #1

The prospect of Cullen Bunn and Juan Doe working together on a book was enticing enough, but hearing that it was going to be a Biblical tale about a dual ark of dark beasts and mythological creatures turned this project into one of my most anticipated books of the year.

Doe has proven himself as a consistent workhorse for Aftershock, tackling American Monster, and then providing stunning work for World Reader and the Animosity: the Rise. It’s incredible to see the further evolution of his distinctive artist styling with this debut issue; in his previous Aftershock works his flowing work shows a glimpse of sinister creatures, and here he REALLY gets to cut loose.

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His mythical monsters ooze menace – see the manticore for an example. Kruul is a beast, pure and simple, with a human face full of dagger-like teeth and a perpetual snarl. His version of a harpy is equally eerie and terrifying, and his vampires are frighteningly detached from the goings-on around them.

Equally startling is the vulnerability of Shrae and his family. This is a man that has bargained with evil forces, and yet his concern for his family’s well-being is sloping his gargantuan shoulders. His daughter Khalee is at war with her self as she tends to the sacrificial humans kept in a hold within the ship. Doe renders her with careful trepidation, as she knows what they’re doing is wrong, but wants to do what she can to support her father.

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Equally of note is letterer Ryane Hill. He manages to find distinct fonts and word balloons for the cornucopia of characters that are shown to the reader, each perfectly fit to the speaker. Probably the most impressive work he did was making the unicorns aboard the arc seem so very out of place, yet keep them alien from the normalcy of humanity.

And then there’s Cullen Bunn, the man who could honestly be touted as the greatest horror writer in comics. There’s some strange pleasure when he writes evil and scary things, and he is able to inject pathos into the terrible tales he spins. In this book, he has made a dark, Old-Testament-evil sorcerer into a sympathetic character. He shows a manticore with a soft spot for a beleaguered child. And my god, back to the unicorns: Bunn gives us a heart-breaking scene where a pair of unicorns try to make sense of why they were left to board this dark ark instead of the God-ordained ark with Noah and his crew.

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This issue is the blossoming of a tremendous premise; there are layers upon layers of emotion in this story, with narratives latticing in intricate designs. Bunn, Doe, and Hill are a dream team, each contributing mightily to making this a fantastic book, taking what could have been a straight-up gruesome book and transforming it into an engaging work full of imagination.

Aftershock has done it again with this one.

 

10 out of 10 Unicorn Tears