The Dark and Bloody made its underwhelming debut last month and received precious little attention from audiences. As the latest offering from Vertigo it should have been a horror masterpiece but it fell far short of the mark. Is there any renewed hope for this title after the second issue?
The biggest problem with the first instalment was that it didn’t have any teeth. That is to say that the story lacked any and all gravity and certainly didn’t provide much in the way of chills. The monster of the story was a decidedly not scary bird of rather large proportions. The characters, whilst very well developed, didn’t do anything to further the plot in much of a meaningful way. Beyond all of this though was the fact that it was just a bit of a confusing mess. That looks set to change after this issue.
Once more the comic opens with a flashback to Iris’ time serving in the armed forces over in the Middle East. The story told initially ran the risk of being yet more heavy handed character development but it ultimately moved the plot forward in a far more interesting way that expected. Of course, it was revealed to be a nightmare but the fact that Iris would see the creature stalking the woods around him in his dream makes for an interesting twist and adds to the sinister nature of this story.
Shawn Aldridge does a masterful job of telling a compelling story without giving a massive amount away. The pacing is fast and you won’t find yourself growing weary at any point throughout the book but at the same time you won’t be getting any major revelations either. That’s not say there aren’t some big developments, the death of two former soldiers Iris served with is a tantilising detail as is the fate of June Bug and Charlie, but you are still left in the dark with regards to the bigger picture. That is something that all horrors of this type must strive to do as something is only really scary when it is unknown, if you put it out there in the cold light of day it tends to lose that aura in a hurry.
At its heart this is not an out and out horror in the traditional sense but rather it is a journey into the life of a soldier, a good man, suffering from PTSD after the things he has been forced to do for his country. The shadowy monster can be taken as both literal and as a metaphor for Iris never being able to escape the horrific memories haunting the periphery of his life. The friends turned foes speaks to that feeling of disconnect many veterans experience when they return from war into a normal civilian environment. These are all deliberate choices by Aldridge as he attempts to explore deep societal and psychological issues whilst also delivering on the expected feeling of unease that a title such as this needs to create.
The entire book feels as though it is leading to something greater in future issues and that is never more true than in the final page that hints at a very dark turn on the horizon. Whilst this does mean that this particular issue is not all that it could be, it still serves as a worth entry into this mini-series.
As is the case so often the art once more takes centre stage in this book. Scott Godlweski and Patricia Mulvihill deliver a foreboding experience as each page creates a claustrophobic effect through use of deep blacks and startling reds. The fact that the portions of the book that are imagined by Iris are stylistically no different to the real moments makes for a tense read as fans can never be sure what is real and what isn’t.
Issue two of this series has more than made up for the slightly weak opening. The story is developing nicely whilst also being shrouded in a great veil of mystery, which is not an easy feat to pull off. It has the added benefit of being entirely unique in the comic world as nothing is quite comparable to this title. It should be noted that the full potential of The Dark and Bloody has not yet been reached but it is something worth following because it will be spectacular when it does get there.
Score: 8.0 (A new scoring system because rating comics out of 5 leaves too little room for differentiation).
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