Dark Shadows #1

A comic review article by: Shawn Hill

 

"Evening at Collinwood..." That was the way so many episodes began, back in the heyday of the titular concept, with waves crashing on a rocky cliff, and a brooding house set back on the hill. The opening page instantly thrusts us back to that signature opening, immersing us in the old-fashioned world of the iconic supernatural soap opera.

Dark Shadows #1

We come to the surface in a particular moment in that series, perhaps the most propitious one from which to bring the undead back to life. The series itself went through a slow evolution in the 1960s, from black and white to color and through an assorted few brooding heroines until it found its unexpected first star in the person of the cursed but suave vampire Barnabas Collins, and then its best villain with the conniving and frequently immortal witch Angelique. Stuart Manning and Aaron Campbell have done their homework, and the best sequence this issue involves Barnabas suffering undead dreams of a vengeful Angelique, the arbiter of his vampiric curse, glowing green like a spectre in the night sky.

Dark Shadows #1

Campbell's style is both realistic and suggestive, somewhere between a less photorealistic Alex Maleev and the shadowy Vertigo house style. His work is sufficient to let the fans among us recognize the supporting characters, among them Carolyn and David Collins, the troubled children of the house, distant matriarch Elizabeth Stoddard and her alcoholic brother Roger. But foremost of all is houseguest Dr. Julia Hoffman (because she's usually the only one who knows what's going on).

Not only does she know Barnabas is a vampire, she is in fact secretly working to effect a cure for him. But in the interim, he has to control his urges, and that's where the conflict comes in this issue, as Carolyn's urges in response to a lost lover she grieves for place her directly in his path.

Dark Shadows #1

All of this places us somewhere in the mid-to-latter years of the series, when the formula was set but right before the show got weirder and weirder with things like time travel and parallel time and dimensional doorways and stairways to the future and past of Collinwood. The witches and werewolves and glowing body parts and ghosts multiplied, as if the producers realized their cast of game character actors could make the best of playing variations on their established characters, and thus recycle the core stories in refreshing new ways. What could be a more perfect formula for an ongoing comic, if the creators get that far? For this inaugural issue, it's enough to recapture the particular macabre mood for the fans. This one has me hooked all over again, and we haven't even seen Quentin or Daphne yet!


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

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