REVIEW: Dark Shadows #7

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Collinsport, 1972 — A dark force is preying upon a small Maine fishing town; one child has been taken and there’s reason to think more may follow. The reluctant vampire Barnabas Collins seeks to find the perpetrator of this crime, but could he just as easily be the cause?

DARK SHADOWS #7
WRITER: MIKE RAIGHT
ARTIST: GUIU VILANOVA
COLORIST: CARLOS LOPEZ
LETTERER: TROY PETERI
EDITOR: JOE RYBANDT
PUBLISHER: DYNAMITE ENTERTAINMENT
COVER PRICE: $3.99

Previously in Dark Shadows: Children from the neighboring town of Spafford have been disappearing and, with the attack and abduction of David Collins’ friend, Emma Debellis, it appears the tragedy is spreading to Collinsport, as well.

SPEAKING SILENT VOLUMES

The story picks up immediately from the prior issue with WIllie Loomis abroad in Ireland having just attacked… a broad. Barnabas sent him to the Emerald Isle to retrieve an amulet that appears to suppress vampirism in its wearer. Willie stole it off a woman’s neck and the previous owner is none too pleased. With dawn fast approaching, however, there’s not much she can do.

Back in Collinsport the authorities are questioning David about the disappearance of his date from earlier in the night while Barnabas makes the acquaintance of an officer, Deputy Ted Granger, from a neighboring town where many other children have disappeared. Both Barnabas and Granger sense something off about each other and the rest of the issue’s action flows from that encounter. Barnabas decides to get to the bottom of these disappearances and Granger thinks he’s already gotten to the bottom of Barnabas.

This issue certainly isn’t light on dialogue, but it’s not shy about stepping back and letting the art tell the story; the secret to great writing is great editing and knowing when to hold back the words is a skill at which no scribe should scoff. Barnabas’ realization during his clandestine crime scene investigation could have been told through internal monologue, but it’s much more chilling to guess at what he’s discovered by reading the silent reaction on his face. All is made clear a couple of pages later when it doesn’t risk neutering the tension.

TONS OF SHADOWS, ZERO VORLONS

Because of its protagonist’s nature, Dark Shadows setting is almost universally post meridian and Guiu Villanova’s art makes the best use of the available light. As the book’s title would suggest, the shadows themselves are so ubiquitous that they almost become a character in the story, hammering home the book’s genre of gothic horror and letting the reader know something could always be lurking anywhere, be it the tree line of a forest or the corner of Collinwood’s drawing room. On characters’ faces these tricks of light heighten the emotion of panels in which they’re used and fully exploit the fear, uncertainty or determination inherent in a panel’s writing. If any book can read as though it has a lighting director, this one is it.

I’m a huge fan of the 1966-1971 Dark Shadows series, so I pay lots of attention to both the personalities and designs of the characters and they’re usually right on the nose. This issue has no major problems on that front, but there were a couple of panels where the character designs veer from realistic to mildly cartoony. It makes me pause and takes me out of the story, but it’s a minor thing considering the overall excellence of the art.

BOTTOM LINE: NEEDS MORE QUENTIN, BUT OTHERWISE FANTASTIC

A story told wonderfully. Because of my fondness for the property I read through the issue a few times looking for holes to poke in the story, but I couldn’t really find any. It hits all the beats and keeps me turning page after page to get to the source of this mystery. The cliffhangers are enticing enough to keep me coming back every month, but not so edge-of-my-seat frustrating that I’ve considered waiting for the trade to read a bunch in one go.

Rating: ★★★★★

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