Dark Shadows #4

A comic review article by: Shawn Hill


The Angelique story wraps up much more quickly than I expected with this issue, though it may be for the best, plot-wise. If the series really wants to live up to its dramatic variant covers over the past four issues, Manning had better start developing Barnabas Collins beyond his iconic image, so that new readers might begin to understand what the fuss was all about.

Without Jonathan Frid to really embody the romantic intensity of Barnabas, we see only (despite Campbell's more than ample art) a brooding old dandy, one that might have passed for a sex symbol in the 1960s of his heyday, but is a bit of a hard sell in the Twilight era. Not an impossible one, mind you, just a hard one. This series has been so steeped in hitting the ground running as the next chapter after the 1971 demise of the TV show that it may have taken a lot for granted thus far.

Really the characters who come off the strongest aren't the usual stars, exactly: Caroline Stoddard, the normal blonde ingénue, and Quentin, the brooding werewolf of later seasons, are the most relatable. Quentin's appeal is clear; when covered in fur, he's an action hero, jumping into the fray with witches, vampires and ghosts and whatever incites his rage. But Caroline is more unexpected, just a poor little rich girl swanning around the shadowy estate usually, but already touched by true pathos in this comic.

In searching for normalcy (while Angelique's curse was spreading amongst the family), she reached out to local bartender Jack down at the village pub. And that search for friendship has resulted in his death, as Angelique turned Caroline into a damsel in distress, resulting in his sacrifice. That's a tragedy young Caroline can't forgive herself for, or forget.

The other characters include Elizabeth, the wealthy matriarch whose byword is denial, young David (usually a magnet for tween-age trouble), and the diffident Roger. There's a full cast, in other words, and like the series in its later years, I hope they become as diverse and idiosyncratic and colorful as possible. The concept is at its best when the manor house is full of vulnerable, colorful souls (a truth the impending film seems to already know, to judge by production stills) whether played for comedy or tragedy. While the commanding Dr. Julia Hoffman is always presence in her own right, none of the rest ever really steals focus from Barnabas himself, whose eternal plight and curse always rendered him fascinating.

Angelique was hardly ever even a character, usually just the single most unrelenting plot device, keeping everyone else in jeopardy with her dark designs. That's certainly her role this issue, as she risks everything to maintain her unnatural life. Her unrelenting quest for Barnabas takes her directly to one note territory, so making short work of her was for the best if Manning had no new spin planned.

Campbell doesn't hold back on the blood and gore, but is almost better on the simple eeriness of levitating witches, glowing possessed eyes, and the flutter of batwings in the many looming inky black shadows. When Angelique fails, things return to the normal quiet gloom of Collinwood, but it looks like the ghosts of Barnabas' many victims will be showing up next issue. That's the right move now, as we need to be recaptured by his plight in this new medium as his original fans once were two generations ago.



Shawn Hill knows two things: comics and art history. Find his art at Cornekopia.net.

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