Written by Joel T. Lewis
While escaping the clutches of the ominous “reality” of the psych ward that Marc Spector finds himself in is the central plot of the second issue of Moon Knight, writer Jeff Lemire dedicates a substantial chunk of the issue to redefining a relationship that’s crucial to the Moon Knight mythos. Khonshu and Marc Spector’s relationship has been underdeveloped for most of Moon Knight’s history. Starting as an ominous statue which silently looms over Spector as he dies in Egypt, Khonshu loomed as a presence that impacted how Spector made difficult decisions in the earlier runs of Moon Knight. Spector does consult the statue in a way, cursing it and begging for its help, but Spector’s “prayers” if they can be called such, go unanswered, at least to the audience. There is some sense in the early comics that Marc hears a response in his own head but more recently Khonshu has begun to speak to Spector loud enough for the reader to hear.
This second incarnation of Khonshu served as a more sinister version of the shoulder devil we used to see in Bugs Bunny cartoons; spurring Spector to deal out as much pain and suffering as possible. This Khonshu is continually disappointed in his choice of Spector as an avatar especially when Moon Knight clashes with his arch-nemesis, Raoul Bushman or the Punisher. Khonshu lusts after these characters because they do not hesitate to kill while Spector is always reluctant to give in to pure bloodlust. While the questions raised about Spector’s psyche by this manifestation of Khonshu are interesting and the character is quippy and as carnage-happy as you would like, this version of Khonshu can be a bit of a one trick pony. Spector’s relationship with this Khonshu is mainly that of doormat as he is browbeaten into carving crescent moons into the foreheads of his victims and even murdering them.
Lemire’s Khonshu is more nuanced and rounded out than the previous incarnations. Even his fossil-bird appearance is more refined as he dons a white on white suit in his conversations with Spector. But what is most striking about Lemire’s Khonshu is the genuine fatherly affection he feels for Spector that comes across in this issue. This issue marks the first long form conversation between Spector and Khonshu in this run and it starts with a bit of “same song second verse” syndrome as Khonshu snaps at his disciple. But this anger melts away after a single panel and Khonshu actually apologizes to Marc. This is an unprecedented gesture that instantly shifts the dynamic of God and Priest into Father and Son. Khonshu is almost tender as he explains that his race, the race that the ancient Egyptians called their gods, came from the “Othervoid” a place separate from space and time.
During the reign of the ancient Egyptians Khonshu and his kind were able to travel freely between the “Othervoid” and the dimension where earth resides, but no longer. Now the old gods have to seek out hosts in order to act in Spector’s dimension. Apparently Spector’s weak mind attracted Khonshu to use him as a host and that same weak mind is what the other gods are using in order to find a way back to earth’s dimension. All of what Spector has been experiencing has been an elaborate illusion created by the god Seth. As Spector struggles to comprehend the scale of these revelations he asks the question on all of our minds, “How do I know if this is real?”
This is the question Spector and Moon Knight readers have been asking for years and the answer Khonshu gives us would be frustrating if it wasn’t so sincere: “You don’t. That is the hard part. Now you must have faith.” Khonshu knows how fragile Spector’s mind is, he knows what he’s put him through, and the compassion that was always missing from this God and Priest relationship finally shines through.
While the plot-driving events of this issue are compelling enough to make you pick up the next issue this expositional scene is a testament to how seriously Lemire takes his job. The affection he has shown for the history of Moon Knight and his creativity in breaking down the insecurity we and Marc Spector feel about his sanity is breathtaking.
Written by John Edward Betancourt
It's no secret that I have been absolutely enamored by IDW's comic book revitalization of Tales from the Darkside and with good reason. It's a faithful follow up to an iconic show, paying respect where it is due, but all the while adding new wrinkles to the mythos along the way. Because of the quality that has gone into this, it made today's review a difficult one, because the fourth issue of this stunning series...is also its last.
Yes, since the rebooted series never reached the airwaves there are only so many scripts that Joe Hill penned, and we have come to the last of them from that pile and well...they most certainly saved the best for last. Because not only does 'The Window Opens' wrap up the whole 'Black Box' storyline, it prepares us for something far more nefarious and in a way...perhaps explains this whole universe to us in the process.
This go round, we meet a young girl named Joss Waldrop and she's new to the neighborhood. On a seemingly boring day, Joss is terrified at the brief glimpse of a man appearing and disappearing before her while she's behind the wheel of her car, forcing her to run off the road and smash into a mailbox and apologize profusely to the family inside the house for damaging their property. But the quirky heads of the household think of an easy way for her to make up for her mistake, just babysit the kids tonight and all will be well. But little does Joss know, the two children in this household have discovered the gateway to the Darkside on their tablet computers...and she will be in for one incredible night of terror as they begin to play with reality and the horrible things that lurk in the shadows.
So, out of the four 'episodes' that IDW published, this one is my favorite by far. It ties all four stories together by revealing that Briterside's notion of control has completely backfired and unleashed an evil upon the world in Big Winner. Reality is no longer what it seems and the parallel world of the Darkside is ready to claim lives at will. That means in a roundabout sort of way, this final book serves as a prequel to the whole mess, that the horrible tales we enjoyed so long ago are people like Joss, trapped in a world they cannot explain where awful things happen on a regular basis and Brian Newman is more or less the patient zero of it all. It's a stroke of genius and all origin story aside, the story inside this issue is equally as impressive, filled to the brim with chilling visuals as the children's ideas come to life and my particular favorite is the tentacle creature that emerges from the bedroom.
However, despite this awesome finale to Joe Hill's run as Maestro of the Darkside, I am definitely sad to see this series come to an end. Tales from the Darkside was an influential television series, one that paved the way for the horror we enjoy on television today, so to see it resurrected, in any form was a big deal to me and no doubt to horror fans everywhere and one can only hope that Joe's incredible work on this series inspires someone to resurrect this series on television in some form or fashion because it's clear from these four issues, there are plenty of scary places that we can still go in this universe and at the minimum, I certainly hope that IDW decides to pick up this series as a regular run with a variety of different writers giving life to new and terrifying stories from the scariest places of our imagination. But for now, this good thing has come to an end and what better way to say goodbye than with the chilling reminder that...'The Darkside is always there, waiting for us to enter...waiting to enter us. Until next time, try to enjoy the daylight.'
Written by Joel T. Lewis
If you've read any of my previous articles on comics you know that I subscribe to judging a comic book by its cover. My bent and paper-cut fingers rifle through scores of backed and boarded issues and I stop: captivated by a color scheme, a brooding figure, or, in the case of Trencher, utter bedlam.
Image was a different ball game when it came to comics especially in the early 90’s. Content creators had their character’s copyrights, creative control, and could operate independent of corporate big-wigged fingers in their comic’s pie. Image produced unique comics like Spawn and the Savage Dragon, and churned out characters like Shadowhawk and Supreme who were more reminiscent of Marvel and DC properties. Trencher is a property that did not have the staying power of Spawn, Supreme, or the Savage Dragon, but it is a good example of the freedom that a creator had in the early years of Image Comics. Whether the results of that freedom are brilliant or misguided is a question I have not settled when it comes to Trencher.
Trencher is an exterminator of sorts. He sends wrongfully reincarnated souls back to Hell after scenery smashing combat in which both he and his prey leave bits and pieces of themselves in bloody heaps all over the panels. Trencher has an impressive healing factor and a sassy Dispatcher’s voice wired into his head as he goes after a thug with vine-like nose hair, a vomit-themed creature called the Hurler, and four separate reincarnations of Elvis Presley. Trencher is as wacky, violent, and gross as you could hope for however, the artwork and the style of narration of the issues make the comic unreadable. The first issue is so overwhelming and cacophonous that the eye is fatigued within the first few panels as cityscape and hero-villain violence meld and twist into indecipherable soup. You cannot track Trencher from panel to panel: as he tumbles and fractures, spilling flesh, blood, and wreckage all over the pages you're never sure of his position or which direction the next blow is coming from.
At first I thought that I was just too tired to decipher what artist Keith Giffen intended for me to see on the page so I closed the first issue a few pages in and got some sleep. The following day I returned to find that Trencher was just too over-stimulating to process. I did endure long enough to read all four issues in the Trencher series and to his credit, Giffen tones his style back a few clicks with each issue, making the fourth of the series much more accessible. This dialing back came too little too late as the fourth issue was to be the last of the Trencher series and to be honest, I'm not sure if I could have powered through a fifth.
Trencher is a comic like no other that I've ever read: one whose artwork overwhelmed any attempt at narrative clarity. Not that narrative clarity is absolutely necessary to enjoy a comic but even when a narrator is unreliable or a storyline is unclear, it shouldn't be impossible to discover what the story is because of the artwork. Though they inspired this reaction from me, I treasure my issues of Trencher. No comic has made me think more deeply about how I read comics, why I enjoy comics, and to what lengths I'll go trying to find purpose and clarity in a comic.
Written by Joel T. Lewis
With all the continuity shake-ups of the DC universe over the last 10 years or so it has been a daunting task to enter that comic book universe for me. With 'Flashpoint', 'New 52' and now 'Rebirth' there have just been too many titles shuffling too many threads of too many storylines for me to grab ahold of anything with any confidence. Then I heard about All-Star Batman. The first issue was described to me as a madman’s road trip with Harvey TwoFace and Batman. Sign. Me. Up.
Two-Face may have gone too far. In the aftermath of a Gotham-wide spout of acid rain leaving thousands of Gothamites suffering from severe burns, Batman decides to take Two-Face across state lines to an unknown location rather than letting him manipulate the criminal justice system again. This scheme was suggested by Two-Face’s other personality Harvey Dent who wants to be rid of Two-Face once and for all. But, little does Batman know that Two-Face has put out a bounty on Batman, threatening to reveal every scrap of dirt he's accumulated on the citizens of Gotham if someone doesn't prevent Batman from relocating Two-Face. Seconds after this is revealed the BatPlane is shot out of the sky and a quick aerial hop turns into a road trip scenario. Cue a roadside diner brawl starring Batman, Killer Moth, Firefly, and Black Spider complete with some killer Batman quips and chainsaw sculptures. Rest assured I am not exaggerating and it is glorious.
The artwork is sleek and crisp, and villain and hero alike leap off the page as you read. I was particularly struck by the character designs for the Fly, Moth, and Spider themed villains as they flew through panels and window panes. Being bad never looked quite so good as Batman trades blows with Black Spider. Also the hooded Two-Face that we meet aboard the BatPlane builds up tension and mystery that pays off in a big way when he is finally unveiled on the ground. His sheet mask mirrors how he sees the world: there is a thin veil of humanity that everyone hides behind. Underneath that thin veil, like his thin sheet, lies a dark core capable of monstrous things.
Apart from nailing the philosophy and tone of Two-Face’s character and the killer twist at the end of the issue, All-Star Batman captures the spirit of a road trip that I sincerely hope continues throughout the series. You feel like you've been in this roadside diner, and driven passed tacky chainsaw sculptures like these on every cross-country outing your parents dragged you along for. If this issue is any indication there is a lot to be excited for in the coming months as All-Star Batman continues. It's not often that we get to see Batman out of Gotham, in broad daylight , and in such intimate proximity to one of his most dangerous foes. Writer Scott Snyder gives us all that and more as the panels unfold with cinematic timing; jumping between the present and just before slowly revealing more details of the plot.
Further, Snyder’s take on Batman breathes new life into a character that can be a bit one-note at times. Too often we are presented with a dark and brooding Batman who carries the weight of his crusade for justice in every panel, but Snyder gives us a hero who seems like he actually enjoys being Batman and that’s quite refreshing. He quips, he innovates, and he is present during combat in a way that I haven’t seen before. Typically Batman will dispatch a room full of goons with surgical precision and an emotionless demeanor whereas All-Star Batman is almost as talkative as Spiderman. I haven't read a Batman comic in quite a while but boy is it good to be back!
Written by Joel T. Lewis
The first issue of Moon Knight 2016 wastes no time in establishing tone, setting, and subject matter: and all of that comes before page 1. Old Moonie is right where we’ve speculated he'd end up someday: on the wrong side of a padded cell, with his white straight jacket, and a crescent moon cut into his forehead.
In this run, Jeff Lemire places Moon Knight’s sanity under the microscope as Spector wakes from a vision of Khonshu to discover that he is an inmate at an asylum for the insane. Spector struggles to reason out which of the multiple personalities of his past is the real one only to discover that his therapist Dr. Emmet insists that none of Spector’s past was real. According to Dr. Emmet, Spector has been a resident of the asylum since he was 12 and has used the vigilante Moon Knight (who actually exists) as an escapist fantasy. Lemire, through Dr. Emmet, suggests that all we know of Moon Knight, but that Jake Lockley, Steven Grant, and Marc Spector could have been imaginary this whole time. The truth is unclear as Spector is torn between the “reality” of the asylum around him and the vivid flashbacks triggered during his search for answers.
Spector is not alone as familiar faces Gina, Marlene, and Crawley are residents of the asylum too. Gina and Marlene seem to have no idea where they are or who they were, while Crawley, unsurprisingly, seems to be in his element, serving as Spector’s tour guide within the asylum walls. The thorazine drips and threats of shock treatment seem to have had no effect on Crawley’s chipper demeanor as he attempts to reassure Spector of his identity as the Fist of Khonshu: Moon Knight. Khonshu himself makes a brief appearance in the opening dream sequence compelling Spector to remember his “pasts” as Moon Knight and urges him towards the end of the issue to escape the bonds of the asylum’s mundane reality.
Greg Smallwood’s artwork mirrors Spector’s introspection as he flashes between the “remembered” past as Moon Knight and the apparent reality of the asylum. The colors and texture of the remembered panels strike out in harsh contrast to the bright, antiseptic asylum panels. The reader is, as Spector is, more convinced of the validity of the memories than the reality presented to them. This is complicated however, as the vibrancy of these panels would seem to be too vivid and too surreal to be credible. Smallwood’s panels defy margins and leave more blank space than content as their shape mirrors the content of the panels: as Spector is knocked unconscious the panels seem to trickle off into unconsciousness as he does. Also, at times the shape of Smallwood’s panels serve as punctuation: as Spector is subjected to electroshock treatment the dial controlling the current running through his body is the dot of an exclamation point. This narrowing of panels from page to page focuses your gaze and intensifies the action of those panels. This style of paneling also establishes expectations that are blown away by massive splash pages whose scope and scale hit home all the harder for coming after the decrescendo of the page before.
This is not the first story arc to tackle the tricky subject of Marc Spector’s sanity (or lack thereof) as we have seen Moon Knight driven to psychotic rage and mutilation of his victims in the past. However, this is the first series of Moon Knight that I’ve read that attempts to capture the how cerebral madness can be and challenges both the reader’s and Spector’s faith in the legitimacy of Moon Knight’s legacy. Overall, I believe this issue succeeds in establishing the tone and style necessary to explore the Madness of Marc Spector (which would be a great title for a series of Moon Knight by the way) in an accessible and compelling way.
Written by John Edward Betancourt
Deep down, there is one thing we all truly fear...losing control. Be it giving in to our tempers, or perhaps the vices we are ashamed of, we work hard to keep those respective 'darksides' to ourselves and where they belong...in the shadows and recesses of our soul. But what happens when the worst case scenario arrives and the ugly parts of us that we keep hidden within are unleashed?
Do we say goodbye to our friends when our tempers flare up non stop? Do we let our vices take over our lives? Most likely, our friends and family would step in to get us the help we need, but for those without friends and family...the results could be disastrous and in the comic world, the IDW revitalization of Tales from the Darkside decided to take this notion one step further, by personifying the worst parts of our souls in 'The Black Box - Part Two'.
When we last left Brian Newman, he was mere moments away from being free at last from the monster that plagues his dreams and causes harm to those around him; Big Winner, and thankfully the delicate surgery performed on his brain to remove this being from his life turned out to be a complete success. But what the scientists at Briterside are completely unaware of, is that by trying to change the chemistry and composition of Brian's fragile mind, they have unleashed true terror upon the world. For while Brian sleeps and heals, Big Winner is free to do as he pleases, and he is going to unleash revenge upon anyone that has ever harmed Brian in the slightest...
It seems as though with every issue of this comic, Joe Hill manages to recapture the magic more and more of this iconic series and this issue is no exception to that unspoken rule. This go round, Joe has managed to bring the gorier side of the show back to life as Big Winner begins his wholesale slaughter of those who have 'wronged' Brian and the blood is thrown about the pages of this issue with glee. But what makes this episode even more like the regular show, is that it continues to captivate and ignite the imagination by bringing forth so many questions. For example, is Big Winner truly a manifestation of psychic power from within Brian...or is he some kind of supernatural being that attached itself to the poor man and has been with him all the way.
Heck, this issue even manages to become philosophical in nature, speaking to exactly what we discussed earlier, the struggle to keep the worst parts of ourselves under wraps because now that we can see what Big Winner is capable of, we understand completely why Brian has worked so hard to keep himself away from other human beings and protect them from this awful being within. As an added bonus as well, another first for the franchise comes into play here since I was under the assumption that this was a two part fiesta, and well...this is turning out to be a three parter, with the epic conclusion now looming before us and well, I love it. This has been quite the engrossing story, and I'm dying to see if we will learn more about Big Winner and what he really is...and if he can ever be put back under control. Guess we'll find out in Issue #4, until then.
Written by Joel T. Lewis
There’s a used bookshop in Breckenridge that my family visits every year when the international snow sculpture competition is in town. It's everything that you want in a bookshop: it has the smell of dust jackets living up to their name, books are precariously arranged on every surface you can see, and there’s a vague sense of organization but finding anything is an adventure and this is where I discovered Moon Knight. Actually, this is where I rediscovered comics through Moon Knight.
Growing up I owned a handful of comics: a few obscure issues of Batman that came along with an action figure or from somebody who just picked one up for me on a whim. I didn’t follow massive continuities or wide sweeping story arcs but I did read those 4 or 5 issues over and over, wishing I knew what had come before and what would happen next. I just never had the access to comic shops so I wasn’t able to pursue that curiosity. So it was with this fascination and unfamiliarity that I approached a dusty long box full of old comics, intending to flip through just to see if there were any cool Batman covers that I was interested in taking home with me. But as I was flipping through the faded issues I came across a cover that infected my brain, one that I couldn’t put down, and one that I would eventually purchase along with every other issue I could find of this new hero I had discovered. That cover was Moon Knight no. 17.
In the months that followed I bought trade paperbacks, drove out to comic shops, and poured over everything the internet had to offer on my new favorite superhero: Moon Knight. I’m obsessed. I’m using the present tense here deliberately because mine is a constant state of fascination when it comes to Moon Knight. I have read nearly every issue that bears his name, I own the issue in which he makes his first appearance, and I am well on my way to owning every comic in which he makes an appearance. So when I tell you that what follows is the short version of what Moon Knight is about and why I love the character, rest assured that I am telling the truth.
Marc Spector was a Mercenary. An ex-marine who decided that his combat training could prove more profitable if the operations he staged were auctioned off to the highest bidder. But when confronted with a fellow mercenary’s willingness to harm truly innocent people, Spector had a change of heart, which proved fatal. Left to die in the middle of the desert, Spector stumbled into a forgotten temple, collapsed at the feet of the Egyptian God of the Moon, Khonshu, and died. Khonshu, taking pity on Spector, intervened and resurrected him, molding him into his avatar on earth, his warrior-priest, his Moon Knight of Vengeance.
Spector returned to the United States and rebranded himself as the millionaire Steven Grant by day and Moon Knight by night, funding his affluent playboy lifestyle and moon-themed gadgets with the spoils of his mercenary days. But here’s where the character gets truly interesting: Spector willfully suppresses his true identity as Marc Spector the soldier for hire and affects an affable millionaire playboy persona in his everyday life. This is not his sole performance, however, as he affects the gruff persona of New York City cab driver Jake Lockley. Lockley allows Spector to keep an ear to the ground and spy on the seedy underbelly of the city he protects as Moon Knight. One man: four personalities.
Now Moon Knight, or Moonie as he is sometimes called by his rogue’s gallery and writing team, has been through the the Marvel blender like most superheroes: he's been through reboots, redesigns and relocations like the best of them. What have remained constant are Spector's uncertainty of his own sanity and the support of his friends. Whether it's his brother-in-arms Jean-Paul DuChamp who serves as Moon Knight's mechanic and Moon-Coptor pilot, Jake Lockley's friends Gina and Crawley, or Spector's girlfriend Marlene Alraune, Moon Knight is never alone in his fight for justice, vengeance, or sanity.
Is he crazy or is he sane? Can he balance his crime fighting with his off-again on-again relationship with Marlene? Is the vengeful God Khonshu real or is he a delusion created by Spector's damaged psyche? These are the most prominent conflicts that Moon Knight's Comics have explored over the years and though they are revisited again and again they continue to fascinate me with every reexamination.
He's been bitten by werewolves, seduced by serial killers, and traded punches with Spiderman and the Punisher. He's been a Defender and a member of both the West Coast and Secret Avengers. He's carved crescent moons in the foreheads of his prey, he's taken on the personalities of other superheroes, and he's worn the face of his most hated enemy. Moon Knight is clever, brutal, and completely insane.
Over the next few weeks I will be writing review/recap articles on the most recent run of Moon Knight and I sincerely hope if you've never heard of Marc Spector before you'll consider picking up an issue and sharing in my obsession.
Written by Joel T. Lewis
In the weeks leading up to the blockbuster releases of superhero films like Captain America: Civil War, X-Men Apocalypse, or BVS I find myself pouring over back issues spanning multiple hero titles and story arcs. I consume like a madman so that when that tiny bit of fan-service makes it on-screen, I can appreciate it or when a character arc is switched I can wince with the rest of the audience. In the digital age we live in our access to comics is almost limitless. If I want to read every back issue of the Fantastic Four (and believe me, I do), I can go on my Marvel Unlimited App, access the digital archive, and read them anywhere I want, day or night, coffee shop or city hall. Databases like Marvel Unlimited and Comixology allow us to access thousands of issues and follow every story arc, but sometimes it’s nice to break away from the search fields and subscription services and pick up a comic the old fashioned way.
I do not intend to make a hipster, comic-book purist statement about how comics should be consumed; rather, I want to share how I discovered Propeller Man. I was flipping through a stack of comics, bundled together by title, and happened across a cover that I couldn’t get out of my head, and despite having already blown the majority of my Comic Con budget (as I do every year) I had to take it home with me. Propeller Man is by no means the first title that I’ve discovered this way, nor is it likely to be the last; however, it could be in the running for the best title I’ve come across.
A forgotten past, a dystopian future, a power suit, and a mysterious government plot. Everything about Matthias Schultheiss’ Propeller Man screams early 90’s and as a product of that era myself, it’s right up my alley. Okay it’s not an air-tight story: it’s true that the German translation is a bit choppy at times, and sure there are heroes with better powers and story arcs but Propeller Man is a lot of fun. Plus, the series doesn't feel like any other comic books. The pages are thick, the art is glossy and there's a real heft when you hold them in your hand. But, more than the polish of the issues or the quality of the narrative or the art, I want to express how it was reading this series.
The world of Propeller Man is familiar in its strangeness. The dystopian future in which the comic takes place is unique in its details but familiar in its broader strokes. As Schultheiss pans over the ruinous hulks of decrepit skyscrapers while Propeller Man sails over the city I am reminded of Blade Runner and Terry Gilliam’s Brazil. It is a world whose history is only glimpsed through little dialogue cues and Schultheiss’ dystopian artwork. I found myself fascinated by how this world came to be, even as I was fascinated by the title character’s origin, and as I closed the back cover of the final issue I found that that world loomed larger in its potential than any other comic book world I had entered in a long time.
But, there is no massive back catalogue of Propeller Man. There are only eight issues. Only eight issues were planned in the first place and the story is crafted to live within those constraints, and, in a sense, I knew I had to live within those constraints too as I read. There weren’t any more issues for me to devour, no comforting backlog of tangents and side-plots, no variant covers and no conflicting timelines championed by different artists and writers. I had 8 issues to experience the world of Propeller Man, and that was it. I wanted to savor every issue. I didn’t want it to end, but at the same time when I reached the end, my imagination didn’t have to shut down.
Often the massive catalogue of Marvel or DC titles can feel intimidating but also stunting to the imagination: everything you can think of has been, or is on its way to being done. That’s why titles like Propeller Man are so valuable to me; their obscurity allows them to breathe; they are not confined by their popularity and proliferation.
Propeller Man exemplifies everything I like about comics: wacky, silly, dystopic, strange, and imaginative. Oh, and he has Dolphin Powers...that’s right...Dolphin Powers.
Written by John Edward Betancourt
Sometimes, we meet people in life who firmly believe that they are cursed. That no matter what they do or where they go, something dark and sinister is waiting in the shadows to sabotage them when it comes to success and ensure that they are completely robbed of any kind of happiness; and because of this belief, these types of people often shy away from society, in the hopes of keeping their 'curse' from causing any further harm to themselves...or others.
But family and current or former friends of those kinds of people know that supernatural matters such as that simply aren't the reason for their problems in life. It is most certainly something else that has put them on this lonesome and melancholy path...but what if they were right? What if there was something evil and sinister ensuring their lives are miserable? Well it just so happens that such a concept was explored in the second issue of IDW's comic reboot of Tales from the Darkside.
'The Black Box - Part One' introduces us to Brian Newman, a man that suffers from seizures and just so happens to have a checkered past. Everywhere that Brian seems to go, trouble follows with him, in strange and creepy fashion since it always appears that the world is not what is seems when Brian is around. Once the water in a pool he was cleaning turned to blood, and recently a customer that Brian was helping at his current job claimed that her fur coat came to life and attacked her. It's cost him one job after another, since no employer thinks he is worth the off putting drama, along with friendships but there may be hope for Brian at last. A special institute, one familiar with the fertility treatments that Brian's mom underwent in order to conceive him thinks they may have a way to fix his seizures, and in turn...end the strange occurrences that follow him everywhere he goes...
We are two issues into this revitalization of this classic horror serial and IDW continues to impress with this series simply because, this particular issue looks and feels like a classic episode of the show. We get the featured monster in Big Winner lurking about behind the scenes for Brian, and popping up just enough on the page to disorient and creep out the reader and more importantly...this issue is setting up one hell of an epic story. Every single page of this particular issue is loaded to the brim with clues about Brian's past and the strange company that has taken an interest in him and it makes the 'to be continued' that pops up at the end to be a painful experience because hey...you want to know more.
But the most enjoyable part of this story, is the fact that it is filled with firsts for Tales from the Darkside. After all, two parters were never a thing on the television series, but more importantly this is the first time we have ever seen a main character in this series that turns out to be an actual Average Joe. Normally the people that populate these stories are well...bad people, who often get exactly what is coming to them. That's simply not the case with Brian. He is a man haunted by circumstances beyond his control and it's tragic to see that he has resigned himself to his fate. Of course, who knows, he may be revealed as a bad guy in the next issue, but in the here and the now, this is a different kind of story for the series, one that is actually more human than horror and IDW and Joe Hill deserve some credit for taking this horror classic to new heights with this fresh and inventive story. Until next time.
Written by John Edward Betancourt
It's no secret that I am a huge fan of the 1980's horror serial series, Tales from the Darkside. Back in the day this was a show that truly went to some scary and ugly places and once it found its stride, it provided top notch storytelling that was as thought provoking as it was terrifying.
In the many years since this series went off the air, multiple producers and writers and directors have tried to resurrect it on a particular network...to no avail. It seems that in many ways, time has simply moved on when it comes to the horror themed television serial. But while TV may not want to provide us with tales of total terror, the comic book market is happy to do so since IDW recently released a brand new entry in the storied saga of this show with Tales from the Darkside #1.
This story, entitled 'Sleepwalker', introduces us to a young man named Ziggy who is a man completely without direction in his life. Given the option, he is all about living in the moment and living the good life and eventually his laid back style comes back to haunt him when he falls asleep as the on duty lifeguard, only to be pulled from his slumber to discover that someone has died in the water during his nap. A medical condition, and help from a good lawyer absolve him of any wrong doing, but the loss of life continues to haunt him to the point where he no longer sleeps and a special ability suddenly begins to manifest itself; anyone that looks into Ziggy's eyes will fall into the slumber he so desperately desires and he comes to realize that the only way to free himself of this waking nightmare is to take responsibility for his actions...but it will be a race against time, since the husband of the woman who died at the pool, is ready to take matters into his own hands...and deliver his own brand of justice upon Ziggy.
What makes this story so special, is the fact that it goes beyond simple homage to the original show, this is in fact the adapted pilot for a reboot of the series that never got off of the ground and well, the fact that Joe Hill wrote the original teleplay for this pilot episode makes it all the more special. After all, Joe is the son of horror legend Stephen King, who ironically enough worked on the original series and well, Joe's love of the original show he grew up watching shines through because 'Sleepwalker' has the feel of a classic episode, but at the same time, there is certainly an evolution to be found here, one that brings Tales from the Darkside into the modern era...and that's not a bad thing.
While the original stories often times featured bad people in equally bad situations who often times got their just desserts, this tale adds a new wrinkle to the fold. The biggest difference in Hill's vision of Darkside is the fact that the characters are aware of their actions, and actually want to do something about it. Ziggy wants to set things right and that's definitely a departure from the stories of old, and that's the last we'll discuss of the plot because if you're a fan of the 80's series, now is your chance to enjoy fresh new stories in a universe you know and love and quite frankly...this first issue definitely does the original proper justice and well, I can't wait to pick up the next episode. Until next time, try and enjoy the daylight.