Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Review: Dark Shadows #5

Dynamite Entertainment ... what did I ever do to deserve this?

After three amazing issues, the new Dark Shadows was off to a tremendous start ... and then quickly turned into a rancid pile of Leviathan slime in its final issue. I haven't seen a book take such a nosedive in quality since the final few issue of DC's attempt at a Judge Dredd series back in the '90s (a reference that maybe two other people on the planet with understand, seeing as how nobody was reading that title.)

Much like an abused housewife on an episode of Cops, though, I was willing to let it slide because I thought we still loved each other, Dynamite's Dark Shadows. You changed the writer and artist for the ill-fated issue #4, a problem I'd hoped was caused by a scheduling conflict. Instead, it looks like artist Aaron Campbell is off for greener pastures (working on The Shadow with Garth Ennis) while there's been no explanation for writer Stuart Manning's departure. Maybe he just had better things to do, but he's sorely missed.

This issue has "fill in" written all over it. Sporting a gorgeous cover that has nothing to do with the story inside, the issue sees Barnabas Collins confronted by the ghosts of many of his past victims. He stumbles into a gathering of ghosts at The Blue Whale, there's a lot of shouting, some pointed accusations ... The End. Nothing happens in this issue.

Which isn't necessarily a bad thing, as Seinfeld taught us. You don't need a physical conflict or thereat if you've got an subject to explore socially, but this issue doesn't do that, either. The dialogue is dreadful (have someone read it to you and try to guess which character the dialogue belongs to) and what little interaction the characters have is mostly meaningless. There's even an entire page devoted to Barnabas talking to himself, with the last page on the panel noting that he needs to quit talking to himself.

And then there's the art. I want to hate the work done here by Guiu Vilanova, but he's not a bad artist He's just the wrong artist for a book like Dark Shadows. His style is just too visceral for this kind of story, and reminds me too much of a muscular version classic Gold Key comics. While Vilanova's style has a certain atmosphere to it, it's just to assertive and forces a physicality to the series that it neither needs nor deserves. Dark Shadows should be more Sandman and less Batman.

I hope this book gets its act together. Dynamite is beginning to show a serious lack of understanding of the property, and Dark Shadows is too fertile in characters, situations and location to squander on such thoughtless storytelling.

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