REVIEW: Dark Shadows #11

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David Collins has taken Emma to Collinwood after discovering his bete blanc uncontrollably feasting upon a poor, woodland deer. As he tries to conceal her within the walls of the mansion, Barnabas—bereft of his own vampiric powers—ventures to the Blue Whale to investigate Willie’s claim that Roger and Carolyn murdered someone in the basement. Confused? You won’t be after this Major Spoilers review!

DS11-Cov-FrancavillaDARK SHADOWS #11
WRITER: MIKE RAIGHT
ARTIST: GUIU VILANOVA
COLORS: CARLOS LOPEZ
LETTERS: TROY PETERU
EDITOR: JOE RYBANDT
PUBLISHER: DYNAMITE
COVER PRICE: $3.99

Previously in Dark Shadows David has found the now-vampiric Emma and taken her to Collinwood until they can figure out what to do with her. Meanwhile, Willie Loomis has discovered some sort of murderous cult operating beneath the Blue Whale, and its member include Roger and Carolyn! Naturally, as all Dark Shadows stories go, it falls to Barnabas to get to the bottom of everything.

DARKNESS, DEPTH AND DAVID COLLINS

The past couple of issues have pushed David into the background as a petulant child, so it’s nice to see his character get some prominence and depth this time around. Having found Emma he’s determined to protect her, even if it means hiding her from his family to do so—he’s a Collins after all, so lying and secrets come naturally to him.

David’s relationship with his “little girlfriend” is exactly what I’d expect from someone as socially awkward and emotionally neglected as he. Even though the object of his affection is wrong in the most absolute sense of the word, he’s doubled down on her even though he must know deep down that this will end badly.

His interaction with Elizabeth illustrates just how broken these two characters are. Elizabeth overhears David talking to Emma, but David covers for it by telling her he’s just talking to his late mother; Elizabeth believes it and doesn’t bat an eye. She sees the massively bloodstained garment in the room and accepts David’s explanation that it’s from a nosebleed; I feel like she knows it’s not the truth, but she has to lie to herself about some things to stay functional.

Barnabas and Willie’s trek to the Blue Whale’s basement takes up the latter half of the issue and sets the stage for what I expect to be a fairly engaging next issue. Keep in mind that Barnabas’ amulet no only suppresses the negative aspects of his conditions—vulnerability to sunlight, need to feed—but also his strength, speed, shapeshifting and hypnosis, all things that have come in handy in his previous encounters with evil. Without spoiling anything there will probably be possession, human sacrifice and lots of Satanic rituals.

Quentin finally gets a little panel time this issue and has an excellent sequence where he hulks up into his werewolf form. I didn’t think he was still able to do that, but I’ll let it slide because, hey, Quentin Collins is awesome. Poor little bunny.

BACK TO BUSINESS AS USUAL

A glorious return to form! After a one-issue hiatus Guiu Vilanova is back at the artist’s table and the story is all the better for it. His almost overwhelming use of darkness and shadow does so much to heighten the suspense in ways words simply can’t. There are a few spots where the character designs look off, but some of that can probably be chalked up to odd facial expressions—the designs are nowhere near as off as last issue, so this isn’t a huge complaint.

There’s a full-page panel with Quentin getting ready to pounce on Emma. It’s fantastic and I want a poster of it—everyone should have an 18″ x 24″ image of a lycanthrope in suit and tie getting ready to pounce on a decidedly sanguine preteen vampire in front of a delightful damask wallpaper pattern.

BOTTOM LINE: YES, ALWAYS!

I seriously considered dropping the book hafted last issue’s art debacle, but I’m all about second chances these days, so I gave this one a whirl and I’m glad I did. After this installment I’m in for a pound on this murder cult story line and eager to see where it goes. It’s one of the laws of the Dark Shadows universe that Barnabas always happens to be cured of vampirism when it’s most inconvenient for him to be a normal human and I really want to see how this one gets resolved. Jump on board the Dark Shadows love train with me and pick up this issue. 5 stars.

Rating: ★★★★★

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