For those of you who have been keeping up with this series it will have been apparent that ‘The Dark and Bloody’ got off to a rather slow start. The story was more plodding than it was tension building and as such it failed to fully deliver on its potentially horrifying premise. Thankfully those complaints are no longer founded as issue #3 finally gave this story the shot in the arm that it has been so desperately needing.
The first thing that will hit you in this comic is that, finally, the characters in a horror story are reacting in something nearing a realistic manner to the events around them. Sure, it isn’t wholly representative of how your ordinary person would act if, say, two possessed people had just showed up and subsequently been shot in the face but it gets nearer than the vast majority of literature that shares this genre. Case in point, the shooting that occurred at the tail end of last month’s instalment is addressed not by the perpetrator going about his business as if nothing really happened but instead by having him desperately try to explain what happened to the Sheriff as well as his wife whilst also clearly trying to make sense of things in his mind too.
Shawn Aldridge’s writing is a triumph for the reason stated above but also for the way in which he portrays the character of Iris as so overwhelmingly human. Too often will a lead character in a horror story come across as some sort of caricature that no audience can relate to, that is not the case here as Iris once again proves to be a very real man in his presentation. He is broken by war, tortured by what he was forced to do, and terrified by whatever it is that is stalking him now. To build upon this, each and every scene involving him evolves his character in some meaningful aspect by giving the audience more and more of a peek behind the curtain. Such is the case when readers are finally granted a look back at the pivotal moment in his tour of duty that set in motion the current events plaguing him.
Those wartime atrocities have to do with Shiloh’s creepy young friend, Ayah. She has been a constant looming spectre throughout this book’s short run and the audience was waiting to see how exactly she fit into the wider story. Wonder no more. It transpires that she and her family were casualties of war as Iris was forced to gun them down in cold blood. What happened after that act of barbarism shan’t be spoiled for you as you are going to want to see it for yourself. You won’t be disappointed when you see how it feeds into the larger narrative at play here.
Overall Aldridge built upon more than just character though as the story progressed in great leaps, becoming a far tenser and more chilling affair. The evil that lurks in this backwater town now has a face and, perhaps most jarring of all, it is one that evokes sympathy rather than hatred… unless you’re Donald Trump. This is something that definitely needed to be done as the initial reveal of the monster in the first issue fell flat due to the fact that big, grotesque creatures no longer work as well in horror as more readily identifiable and real life tormentors. They speak to a part of us that still jumps at the creaks in the dark and as such are infinitely more effective as a main antagonist than the likes of Godzilla.
There could be no dark, foreboding tone however if it weren’t for the tireless efforts of Scott Godlewski and Patricia Mulvihill. Between them they have created a book that exudes fear, it is shadowy and oppressive in nature which all makes for a delightfully claustrophobic experience. For a book so intimate in its attention to characters there could be no better artistic style than the one currently in use on the title.
You surely will have come to the conclusion by now that this is the best entry in this series so far. It has just about everything a good horror story requires and it does all of it brilliantly. The second half of this series is looking deeply promising and you will want to be onboard for this ride.
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