Darla Lang is a woman of many secrets. But do they make her a hero, or an arcane threat? Your Major Spoilers review of Darkling #1 from Archie Comics awaits!
Writer: Sarah Kuhn
Artist: Carola Borelli
Colorist: Ellie Wright
Letterer: Jack Morelli
Editor: Jamie Lee Rotante
Publisher: Archie Comics
Cover Price: $3.99
Release Date: November 22, 2023
Previously in Darkling: From the outside, Darla Lang looks like a normal college student… save for the peculiar voluminous black cloak she wears everywhere. Her peers and professors chalk this up to Darla’s eccentric, introverted, slightly creepy persona, but Darla is a young woman with a secret… and a mission. Darla’s cloak is actually a mystical artifact that she can use as a melee weapon, trapping her enemies inside and teleporting them away. Darla’s power and connection to the supernatural world have always been a curse, and now she’s enrolled in Ivy Hollow University which harbors some dark secrets of its own.
CREEPY CAPE GIRL
in the halls of Ivy Hollow University, young Darla Lang is trying out new spells, seeking a solution to her conundrum and freedom from the shadow cloak that has bonded to her shoulders. Though it gives her the ability to teleport and a connection to the realms of the arcane, she can’t help but dislike nicknames like “Caped Creepo.” A sudden power outage interrupts her unsuccessful curse-breaking, sending Darla out to the library for more research. There, she is approached by another of Ivy Hollow’s weirdos, podcaster and connoisseur of the strange, Phoebe Hayashi. Thanks to her strange reputation, Phoebe wants Darla’s help in investigating the disappearance of some of their fellow students, but it’s more personal than just a missing persons case. Phoebe points out that all the victims are the weirdos, the outcasts, the strange kids on the fringe of the social circle… People just like her, and just like Darla. Together, they set out into the night, with Phoebe giving her new friend a playful nickname: Darkling.
I’m not 100% sure if Darla and Phoebe are meant to be a romantic couple or just a pair mystery-busting pals, but either way, it’s a good dynamic, and seeing Darkling accepting the legacy of her strange cloak is a very clear metaphor for accepting your differences and growing up. Aside from some very clever and charismatic dialogue, this issue also has really attractive art, giving Phoebe and Darkling their own individual silhouettes. Even though Darkling originated in the pages of Mighty Crusaders, it’s not really a superhero book, and her superhero costume is barely seen in these pages. It also gets some redesign work, as the extensive cutouts don’t feel quite right on this version of the character, but because of her new attitude and because of her right-around-twenty age. As the issue ends, I find myself wishing this was an ongoing series, rather than just a one-shot.
BOTTOM LINE: FANS OF WEDNESDAY SHOULD CHECK THIS OUT
The idea of paranormal adventures in a boarding school/college setting is slowly becoming a genre all its own, but Darkling #1 presents an intriguing and likable character, with just enough superhuman to make things interesting, some lovely art, and a nicely constructed script, earning 4 out of 5 stars overall. If the intersection of gothic horror, superheroes, and the occult is the Venn diagram you live in, you’re absolutely going to want to give this one a look.
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Archie's superhero revamps finally cross over into their magic and arcane revamps, and it makes for a real "You got your chocolate in my peanut butter" moment and a fun read.