Friday, August 3, 2012

Review: Dark Shadows #6

Confession: It's a lot easier to review something you hate than it is to review something you like.

There's a lingering resentment in 21st century criticism, which is less interested in insightful commentary than creating insult-based performance art. The idea seems to be that if a book, movie or song fails to entertain, then it's the critic's job to fill that void. We're kind of like rodeo clowns in that regard, showing our best work only when things start to go wrong. The rest of the time, though, we're fairly useless.

And the last few issues of Dynamite's DARK SHADOWS were shockingly simple to review, thanks to horrid scripts and messy artwork. After a promising, nuanced beginning, the series went violently off the rails in the fourth issue ... and I went right  along with it. The next issue was a repellent piece of shit that felt like someone trying to fake their way through the written portion of an essay. It kinda looked like DARK SHADOWS, but the script was a sketchy, soulless mess. I was not amused and compared myself to victims of domestic violence, probably because I thought it was funny at the time.

Things are looking up for Dynamite's DARK SHADOWS series in issue #6, though. At least, I THINK it's better ... the last two issues were so aggressively terrible that a kick in the nuts might seem like a loving caress by comparison. But there are glimmers of story and character in this issue that are welcome additions to the series.

The story begins with Barnabas Collins stalking prey in a surprisingly well-populated downtown Collinsport, a version of the town that more resembles the Collinsport of the 2012 Tim Burton film. This is probably a matter of pragmatism, since we saw very little of Collinsports during the television show's run, but the appearance of the film DELIVERANCE on the movie's marquee is a little troubling given it's usage in Burton's film.

Barnabas seems to have surrendered to his old habits, despite having been kinda-sorta "cured" of his vampirism. This is an out-of-character plot point because Barnabas was always tormented by his nighttime hunting, and it reads a little like mediocre fanfic. But the scene ends on a poignant note when Barnabas spots David Collins leaving the theater. Feeling ashamed of himself, he makes a hasty exit.

David is on a date with what appears to be a real-live girl, which is a nice change of pace for a character who, historically, spent most of his time with dead folks. The date ends badly, though, as his date is attacked by a vampire outside her home. While it appears Barnabas is the culprit, we get a better look at the new (and as-yet unnamed) vampire after he follows his young victim to the hospital.

Barnabas returns home, covered in blood that he assures Julia Hoffman came from a deer. Their banter is interesting, showing the couple moving past doe-eyed romance and speaking to each other like husband and wife. Frustrated by Barnabas' refusal to surrender his hopes to her experimental cure, she threatens to leave, but ultimately relents.

Meanwhile, the whereabouts of Willie Loomis are finally revealed: He's been sent to Ireland to retrieve a piece of jewelry as part of Barnabas' "Plan B" for a normal life. The full significance of the item isn't explained, but those of us familiar with BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER can made an educated guess.

All in all, I was happy with this issue, and hope the previous issues were products of behind-the-scenes problems and not examples of what Dynamite thinks a DARK SHADOWS comic ought to be. The issue still had some rough spots: I'm not sure why Quentin Collins and Willie Loomis are dressed for the 19th century (has Willie EVER worn an Inverness cape before?) and I could do without some of the "flying vampires" bullshit. Still, it's a step in the right direction. I say check it out.


Sandi McBride said...

But that's usually the way it is, the well anticipated is rarely the treat we hope it to be...evidence King's The Dome...I discovered to my extreme displeasure that bigger is frequently not better...that one makes a quite unwieldy door stop...hope the Barnabas folk get their act together!

majkinja said...

I feel optimistic about the next issue after reading this one. I must admit I'm more interested in a new foe than Angelique. BTW after the last scene of Angie and Barny in the series (1940) Dynamite's Angelique story didn't make any sense to me. There should have been a story to why Angie and Barney ended back to status quo, instead there are just a vague hint.

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