Set in the backwoods of Kentucky where moonshine is king and a bag of puppies can be drowned with no fuss. Wait… what?!
That’s right, The Dark & The Bloody #1 opens with lead character Iris Gentry talking about the day he had to drown a bag of puppies. They were born after his dog mated with a coyote and his dad wanted none of that. From there he grew up, had a kid and fought in the Persian Gulf war. Now he’s trying to make due by illegally selling moonshine to local idiots. Problem is…something looms in the woods.
The Dark & Bloody #1 (Vertigo)
Why does this book matter?
Nailbiter writer Joshua Williamson gets a quote right on the cover giving this story props. Given how great his horror comic is – believe me, we know – it must mean something quite good is in the works here.
This is illegal kids.
Fine, you have my attention. What’s good about it?
The story goes at its own pace and writer Shawn Aldridge knows that’s fine. Opening on an innocent child being asked to drown puppies is dark and twisted and just the right amount of F’d up to set this story on a dark path. The first line is a gem, “I knew how to kill before I know how to kiss.” Haunting and so very sad. From there we see Iris go to war and see some s--t go down which helps build the character and make him feel real. His family is by his side, but aren’t fleshed out quite as much leaving him the center of our attention.
Eventually something bad happens and it feels like something from a B-movie. It’s barely seen, but that makes it all the more horrifying. In three quick pages we see what it can do and it makes you ask way more questions than it answers. The fact that the horrifying stuff is linked to Iris’ son is all the more messed up.
Scott Godlewski does a fine job on art. The style and quality is a little looser and organic than his work on Copperhead — which suits the story well. The story unravels slowly and his style lends to the sleepy quality it’s going at so far. The three pages I referred to above concerning the horrific moment is flat out jaw dropping good. It’s a double page spread of weaving panels that help convey the chaos and fear flying on the page. It makes you want a hell of a lot more of it that’s for sure! The color by Patricia Mulvihill is rather monotone which gives things that dreamlike quality. The characters are just living life, nothing too exciting about it, so when something enters it that’s possibly supernatural it’s going to get real messed up real fast.
It can’t be perfect can it?
The speed of the story certainly feels like it’s being written for those who will read the trade paperback. While Iris is well rendered and intriguing I can’t help but want a lot more horror and a lot more action. It doesn’t help Iris’ adult life seems to be peachy keen. He might have trouble with the bills, but so far there’s nothing wrong with his family or his social situation. He’s liked, he’s got a side gig paying the bills, but really there’s no warts to pump him up. He’s seen some s--t, which will hopefully pay dividends as the story progresses, but we don’t see those messed up things affecting him yet.
Is It Good?
The atmosphere is ripe for one hell of a haunting story. The main character has a strong backstory, but so far I’m wondering why he’s not more complex as an adult. Plus the big bad thing in this issue isn’t on the page nearly enough leaving you wanting more progress.