Morality and faith collide with the will to survive as a group of American Rangers attempt to escape from enemy territory. Tune your moral compass to expediency in The Whispering Dark #1!
Writer: Christopher Emgard
Art: Tomas Aira
Lettering: Mauro Mantella
Publisher: Dark Horse Comics
Release Date: October 24th, 2018
Previously in The Whispering Dark: Helicopter pilot Hannah Vance ships out overseas for duty in yet another American conflict. Shot down while flying a mission to retrieve a group of Rangers, the survivors are forced to escape under fire from enemy territory, facing their fears and the evil lurking in all of them.
THE VALLEY OF THE SHADOW OF DEATH
Daughter of a priest, Chief Warrant Officer Hannah Vance thinks she has a good understanding on the nature of good and evil. Her father, in the opening page, has a more nuanced take. Shipped overseas to serve in a conflict between America and Russia, Vance spends the first two months twiddling her thumbs, until she is ordered to fly out and retrieve a team of Rangers from deep within enemy territory. Thinks predictably turn upside down as the group and their escort is shot out of the sky. The survivors regroup and begin the long, dangerous trek towards safety. When the Rangers commander is killed in the aftermath of the detonation of a nuclear device, Vance becomes the ranking officer and reluctant leader. Very quickly, her notions of what is good and what is evil come up against the very raw morality the Rangers, and their circumstances, provide.
RIGHT AND WRONG
Without the religious overtone, The Whispering Dark #1 would comfortably mimic a dozen after similar premises. With it, the story is elevated to something more interesting, though the overall quality of the issue is just above average.
Vance is an interesting character, prepared to challenger her priest father on fundamental matters of faith. He seems to be saying that evil is less black and white than his daughter believes. She, on the other hand, perhaps because of her military service, sees both sides in starker terms. She begins to quote John F Kennedy, ‘All that is necessary for the triumph of evil…’ before her father scolds her for hiding behind quotes and not engaging more deeply with the subject.
Aside from the action, then, of which there is plenty, the heart of the story is Vance’s gradual loss of innocence, as the burdens of command lead her to make decisions that seem right at the time. Indeed, after the team ambushes a group of Russians for their supplies, the meagerness of the haul, which Hannah matches against the dead men, makes her realize that God won’t forgive her for ordering the killings.
There is a sense in The Whispering Dark #1, that aside from the human evil lurking in the background, there is a more otherworldly evil waiting to emerge. The title evokes, deliberately I think, the HP Lovecraft story, The Whisperer in Darkness. The moon on the cover is has a skull-face. And hopped up on amphetamines, Vance thinks she sees one of her team transform into a demon at the same time as they kill an enemy soldier. I would be a little disappointed if a supernatural angle did emerge in later issues, as the story would be better grounded in the mundane nature of human evil.
Tomas Aira’s artwork is solid, though somewhat muddy at times. It took me until the end of the book to realize that one of the Rangers was a woman, which was purely down to the writing. That said, key moments are very well realized, especially the transition from a blue/black night scene, to a bloody orange hell when the nuclear weapon detonates.
BOTTOM LINE – TURN THE PAGE, TURN THE OTHER CHEEK
Time will reveal what approach The Whispering Dark takes regarding the sort of evil it will depict. Certainly, enough interesting things occur in this opening issue to hook the reader for at least an issue or two more. Vance’s struggle with command, and the compromises required to survive and retain the allegiance of men and women who have done dark things in the night, will be an interesting aspect of what is to come. In a period in history where our leaders take the route of expediency with greater and greater delight, a book dealing with a main character of faith forced to make compromising decisions should prove illuminating. Overall, this is a solid issue, which matches its theme to the story, and proves compelling.
The Whispering Dark #1
Overall, this is a solid issue, which matches its theme to the story, and proves compelling.