3.5 / 5 – Good read if bought for the right reasons
Dark Shadows returns us to 1971 Collinsport, Maine the cursed town first debuting in the late 60’s as a daily televised soap opera featuring vampires, werewolves and all manner of dark magic. This comic harkens back to the TV show version, with the main character/vampire Barnabas Collins as portrayed by actor Jonathan Frid and not the recent Tim Burton directed/Johnny Depp movie of the same title.
I have always thought that good soap operas and comics share certain narrative similarities which when both are done well, have complex, interweaving storylines that viewers/readers can drop and pick up at different intervals. Neither have an end in sight, nor allow changes such that previous viewers/readers can’t return after a break and get right back into the mix.
This issue adds time travel to our conflict of vampires and werewolves. Barnabas finds his human half possessing a dead body while his dark side, fully in control of his body, leads a cadre of vampires to wipe out the rest of the Collins family and its friends. Barnabas’s human side is aided by a resurrected man who serves the devil, but can he be trusted?
Dynamite continues its tradition of securing positively top name cover artists, in this instance Francesco Francavilla, while the interior art is handled by less well known talent, here it is Nacho Tenorio (with colors by Troy Peteri). This is the first work I have found of Tenorio and they evoke the likenesses of Frid, and the other original cast members (or at least those that I can recall). The artwork has plenty of broad lines but conveys the expressions and actions needed. Writer Mike Raicht has found the voice of these characters and is able to mimic the rhythms of the soap opera without the special effects/acting limitations that characterized the original series. There are character moments but it is mostly one crazy plot twist after another.
While there are storylines that come and go, it is not as neatly chopped up into 5 to 6 issue arcs that are so popular in comics currently. The horror at times comes through but it is undercut by the structure and over-the-top style. The vampires do feed on blood (often shown on panel) and other characters are killed but the gore is not the over-the-top element here. As you can see from this issue, we have time traveling, vampires, werewolves, undead servants of Satan all jumbled together. The characters do hold true to themselves both visually and in the narrative.
I have watched some of the original show but am no expert. If you are unfamiliar with the show, it may take an issue or two to get into the narrative but the inside cover provides an update. I feel that most fans of the series will enjoy this book and for the rest of you, if you like a roller coaster horror book, I would suggest you check it out.
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