The issue starts out before the flood with a mother and her young son who are among some of the people recruited by Shrae to help build the Dark Ark in exchange for salvation from the flood. As they approach the ark in line with the other people, they are turned away by Shrae who claims he is sparing her young son by making them wait out the flood back on land. Just then, a droplet of water hits the mother’s cheek and she forsakes her son, begging the dark sorcerer to take her and spare her life. After seeing what selfish lengths she will go to to spare her own life over her child’s, Shrea then tells her that she does indeed belong there among them and grants her passage into the Dark Ark. Once on board the human “volunteers” are corralled like cattle into the tight quarters below deck. It is only after they are barricaded in that they see the shackles on the floor and realize their true fate.
Meanwhile, in the present day, Janris and Khalee are above deck on board the ark as the monsters below fight to break through to the surface, heeding the call of Echidna, the ancient God Mother of all monsters. They bust up through the upper decks onto the surface of the ship surrounding the two terrified girls. Meanwhile, further out into the ocean, Shrae continues to plead with the monster Echidna to allow him passage, for all he is doing is trying to save her children at the command of his master. The massive goddess laughs at him claiming to be something far beyond his meager human existence — or the existence of any of his gods, for that matter. She cast him out into the depths of the ocean and makes her way to the Dark Ark to reunite with her children. When she arrives there she is greeted by the massive hordes of demons aboard the ark who recognize their mother and offer tribute of Shrae’s offspring. As the children fear the fate of their father, Shrae is saved by the Dark Lord. He uses his sorcery to collect the bubbles of air in the water to form around him to breathe as he swims deeper down into the depths. There he discovers a sunken city filled with demons trapped in the depths below. The dark Lord explains to Shrae that this godmother is an abomination that was meant to be drowned and destroyed beneath the sea long ago. He then instructs the dark sorcerer to return her to where she belongs.
The writing in this issue is awesome. Cullen Bunn continues to weave this dark sinister tale, adding even more depth and dimension to the characters and the story with each new issue. In this one, we catch a glimpse of Shrae’s mercy and empathy when he refuses entry to a mother and her young son. Only after the mother abandons her child for her own well-being does Shrea take her in condemning her to the inevitable doom that awaits her as a volunteer. There is also a moment where the monsters are gathered above deck discussing what to do with Shrae’s children. One group of monsters wants to devour all the humans, while another group speaks out and says that if they don’t learn to adapt to this new way of existence then they are doomed to starve. They were not farmers before, but the humans are breeders and if the monsters have any hope of surviving, they need to adapt and learn how to farm the humans for food. In this Bunn shows us the dynamic between the different tribes. As usual Cullen Bunn sucks the reader in with answers to previous questions, then leaves them coming back with even more questions, such as this mysterious sunken city at the end of the issue.
Juan Doe does a brilliant job on the artwork — it’s dark, exciting, and beautiful as always. The monsters are terrifying as ever and when Shrae is tossed to the depths, Doe does an amazing job with the drawing and the coloring in making it feel vast and isolated. The monsters tear through the upper decks of the Dark Ark with an uncontrolled ferocity that is captured in the action of the artwork. You can really sense the terror and shock of Janris and Khalee as they explode up through the floorboards to reunite with the mother. Once again Juan Doe takes this amazing story by Bunn and breathes dark and beautiful life into it like only he can.
This is a wonderful issue that pushes the story forward. It answers some questions while raising others, leaving the readers on the edges of their seats in wait for the next issue. It is beautiful to look at, as well as terrifying, and some of the frames are truly the stuff of nightmares. I recommend this issue and this series to anyone who enjoys wonderful storytelling and dark, visceral art. Dark Ark #9 is brilliant. Cullen Bunn is at his absolute best in this issue, and Juan Doe is masterful with his beautiful artwork and brilliant colors.