What darkness entered the life of Barnabas Collins to transform him from loving fiancé, son, brother and friend into the conflicted night stalker who feasts on the blood of the innocent. Dynamite seeks to tell that tale with “Dark Shadows Year One,” the origin story of the Collins family’s curse.
ENJOYABLE FOR ALL
The inaugural issue of “Dark Shadows Year One” can be enjoyed on a couple of different levels. “Dark Shadows” super fans most likely will already know the story being told, but will appreciate the fleshing out of a tale half told in the television series. New fans who may have just come across the property thanks to Dynamite’s main “Dark Shadows” book will enjoy the book for its intended purpose: Explaining how Barnabas came to be a vampire and why the Collins family as a whole is unlucky in life.
The long and short of the story goes thusly: Barnabas, while on the island of Martinique, was goaded into bedding a beautiful blonde woman—Angelique, the alpha and omega of the “Dark Shadows” mythos—who was not his fiancee, Josette. Unbeknownst to him, however, she was Josette’s handmaid. Jealousy, blackmail and murder ensue before Barnabas finds himself shanghai’d into breaking his engagement and marrying the gorgeous temptress. So essentially, he became a vampire because of peer pressure—take a lesson.
Seeing Barnabas as a normal human at this point in his life is jarring. Gone is the confidence and self assuredness that will be the result of wiedling supernatural power and suffering 175 years of navel gazing inside a coffin. This guy is soft and malleable. But, then again, Angelique’s charms are unparalleled.
The story is paced well and there are only a few spots where I would have appreciated a few more panels of exposition or story. If you’re not sure about “Dark Shadows” or most closely associate it with the subpar Tim Burton film, then this is a great place to jump on and see what it’s all about. It’s just a good gothic horror tale, too, so it can be read in a vacuum.
TOP COATS AND TAILS
Guiu Vilanova turns in another excellent and haunting visual exploration of the “Dark Shadows” universe. The book’s 18th century milieu with its Georgian sartorial sensibilities, candle-lit rooms and horse-drawn conveyances add an air of authenticity to the idea of witches, curses and vampires. Vilanova always does a fantastic job illustrating the main “Dark Shadows” title—set in the “present” of the 1970s—but the time period of this origin story unlocks his full potential as a gothic horror artist. The colors are all muted and depressing, which is as it should be. Even the one or two daylight scenes take place in a gloomy grey that suits the action within.
The main book’s covers are usually Francesco Francavilla affairs, but “Year One’s” comes from Patrick Berenkotter. It’s different from Francavilla’s, but still great. Whereas the main book drops you into an already frightening world, this one is showing you how it came to be so; the cover smacks of a gothic romance novel, which, arguably, is an accurate representation of the contents. It’s striking.
BOTTOM LINE: JUST LIKE A ZERO ISSUE!
I was lukewarm on the idea of this book because Real “Dark Shadows” Fans like myself already know the origin story and I wasn’t too keen spending lots of time on a rehash of something I already saw 15 years ago in reruns. But it’s a well-told story and there are plenty of details and twists added to make the experience worthwhile even for old hands to the property. Buy it if you can’t get enough Barnabas, but remember that it takes place before Julia, Carolyn and even the 100-year-old Quentin come into the picture. 3 stars
DID YOU READ THIS ISSUE? RATE IT!