Publisher: Dark Horse Comics
Writer: Dan Abnett
Artist: I. N. J. Culbard
Release Date: 13th August 2014
Dark Horse’s new series Dark Ages witnesses the reunion of the stellar creative team behind the intelligent, gripping 2012 Vertigo series The New Deadwardians, Dan Abnett and INJ Culbard. Removing themselves from the Victorian vampire murder mystery of their previous collaboration, this new series takes us into – well – the dark ages, 1333 in fact, but with an added supernatural twist that promises to unfold piece by piece in the issues to come.
Abnett’s writing skills have never been in question, and he instantly displays the keen sense of characterisation and note-perfect dialogue that we’d come to expect from a writer of his calibre in this first issue. While none of the main characters are particularly well developed, in this first issue at least, as a collective they feel perfectly suited to the era and their verbal exchanges as they struggle to grasp exactly what’s happening in the gloriously particularly chaotic scene that dominates this issue just feel right.
I’ve been a big fan of Culbard’s artwork since first coming across it in Deadwardians, and his undeniably basic yet incredibly expressive figures do a great job of propelling the story forwards here. He also does an impressive job in the aforementioned scene of injecting everything with a sense of frenetic panic as things rapidly spiral from bad to worse. My only minor criticism would be in the character design of the source of this chaos, which I felt didn’t quite measure up to the sheer sense of terror they were causing when it came time to reveal them to the reader.
While the bulk of this first issue is dominated by the scene I’ve been fixating on, there are still a lot of other seeds being sown here, with the result being that while they reader may find themselves fairly clueless at the end of this issue about what exactly is going on, you can all but guarantee they’re going to be itching to get their hands on the next issue in the hope of finding out more. That’s definitely the case for me, anyway.
Overall, Dark Ages sees the return of a creative partnership who seem to compliment each other perfectly, and lays some intriguing groundwork for what promises to be a gripping mix of the historical and the supernatural. Highly recommended, even if Abnett and Culbard are clearly playing their cards very close to their chests so far in this one.
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