One of the scariest, most close to home comics comes to an end this week. Can it wrap things up and more importantly, is it good?
The Dark & Bloody #6 (Vertigo)
So what’s it about? The official Vertigo summary reads:
All that fear and dread you’ve been feeling while reading this series? It’s all been building to this, the final showdown between one man and the girl who has come seeking revenge. Iris must not only confront Ayah and the brutal past they both share, but who he is deep down. Is it possible he could save his family from retribution and yet not save his own humanity?
Why does this book matter?
Shawn Aldridge has created a very original horror story that’s more American than you think. With ties to Iraq, old men who lives in the backwoods wielding a kind of magic, and a family at threat there is so much riding on the protagonist. Artist Scott Godlewski has created some truly haunting images as well as some compelling layouts driving this story from good idea to nightmare fuel.
Fine, you have my attention. What’s good about it?
Aldridge ended the last issue with an explosive choice that should have shocked everyone and in contrast, opens this one with a calming moment. The choice to follow such a cliffhanger with a quiet moment with Iris’ wife shows how good he is with building tension and getting the audience at the edge of their seat. This issue delivers in that regard, with Iris face to face with his crime, a giant bird monster, and a flood of emotions to deal with too. The latter element works incredibly well as Aldridge takes Iris back to Iraq and later on delivers a deeply meaningful moment as Iris must digest what he has done.
There are a few surprises in store for readers too, particularly with how the supporting characters act and react to situations in this issue. One of the reasons this issue wraps things up so well is on account of how believable Aldridge has made the events in this issue. So often the horror elements are too hard to believe, or characters act way outside what a normal person would do; not so here, with Iris having to clean up his own mess and characters looking on with the appropriate reactions and actions. The epilogue serves to remind us life goes on, but the horrors we must face are always lingering in this brutal world.
You think the NFL has head trauma? I’ll give you head trauma!
Godlewski gets to draw a lot of the monster in this issue, so anyone grumbling about the lack of the monster in the earlier issues (me included!) gets to enjoy his wickedly gross and disturbing beast. The beak that protrudes from the monster is particularly disturbing as it bends and breaks the teeth of the girl it has taken over. Godlewski uses color to great effect too, with a dark orange allowing the crows and monster to pop off the page. Most importantly Godlewski makes the heartfelt, emotional moments resonate and feel genuine. When Iris sheds his tears you feel them too.
It can’t be perfect can it?
Ultimately the monster makes a huge mistake which leads to the conclusion that I just don’t buy. Maybe it’s blinded by its hate, but why would it give Iris the opportunity to destroy it? The function of the scene makes sense but not enough was done to make this scene feel earned.
Jesus that thing is gross.
Is It Good?
The explosive conclusion to The Dark & Bloody delivers with all the monster madness and heartfelt character moments you could want. This story ends most importantly in a believable way that’s satisfying and it makes me want to see what this creative team has next up their sleeve.