Dark Ark #14 from Aftershock Comics hits book store this week, continuing the third act of this groundbreaking series by master storyteller Cullen Bunn and epic illustrator Juan Doe.
This newest installment, titled “Fallen,” picks up right after a vicious attack on the Dark Ark by a tribe of mysterious and deadly Hunters. Shrae and the vampire lord Nex are taken prisoner in the attack and herded together along with the other captives from the Ark. The two of them speculate who their captors are, and how it is that they have survived the great flood. As the prisoners are led deeper and deeper into the jungle, they come upon a clearing filled with ancient temples. Shrae and Nex are shocked to discover angel wings suspended in the trees above them serving not only as the Hunters’ trophies but also as a warning to anyone entering the area that even God’s favored creatures are not safe or welcome here.
Meanwhile, back at the ravaged and ruined Dark Ark, Khalee, Orin, Janris, Kruul, and a few surviving monsters gather themselves to decide what course of action to take next. One thing is perfectly clear to all of them: it’s only a matter of time before the Hunters return to deal with the rest of them. Knowing that they cannot stay with the Ark, they find themselves with no choice but to venture off into this strange and dangerous place to either seek shelter or try and find their captured companions and rescue them. Khalee tells the others that she has one last thing to check on before they depart, then makes her way to her father’s chambers aboard the Ark. As she enters the dark sanctum, she is overcome with joy to discover her young sister Rea hidden away, unharmed amongst the rubble. Rea informs Khalee that the Hunters were oddly afraid of something in the room and retreated upon entering it. Khalee instructs Rea to join the others then continues her search through her father’s quarters. A short time later, Khalee rejoins the group as they make their way into the jungle. It is not long before they come upon the scent of blood and discover a small group of Hunters carving up some of the carcasses collected during the raid on the Ark, completely unaware of their presence there. Kruul and a demon ally named Gritworm take advantage of this and attack, taking the Hunters by completely by surprise. The Manticore pins down one of the creatures demanding that it tell him the whereabouts of his cub and the sorcerer Shrae. The creature remains silent as Kruul asks for answers yet again. Suddenly Khalee emerges from some bushes, engulfed in what appears to be a dark demonic energy that terrifies the Hunter. The issue ends with young Rea realizing that her older sister must have gotten into something wicked in their father’s chambers and means to use it against them to save their captured family and companions.
The writing on this issue is good, but the story doesn’t really take the reader much further past the events of the last issue. It is really only at the very end, with the attack on the Hunters and the slight cliffhanger involving Khalee’s new found dark powers, that the story picks up any pace or revelation. That’s not to say that Cullen Bunn’s writing on this issue is lacking in any way, but there is more speculation and reflection here than actual momentum. It almost feels as though this issue and the last issue could be combined into one and still have the same impact to the story. There is an interesting new character brought into the mix with the demon Gritworm who breaks off from his brothers and takes up arms joining Kruul on his quest to save his cub.
Juan Doe continues to inspire the imagination with his intense artwork. As the survivors as well as the captives move deeper into the island, Doe brilliantly marries the beauty of this new world with the mystery of these Hunters, and the horror of what is in store for the survivors of the Dark Ark. Kruul and Gritworm’s surprise attack on the Hunters is very exciting and visceral, greatly intensifying the drama, desperation, and despair right up until the issues climactic end. Khalee’s darken transformation in particular looks very cool visually while also conveying an ominous feel as it foreshadows the inevitable price that Khalee will surely pay for taking on this dark power.
Overall this is a good issue with a few interesting plot points, but it doesn’t really feel like it goes anywhere too exciting until the very end. I would recommend this issue for anyone collecting or following the series, as it does touch upon a few things that will surely come into play in future issues, however, it is not a must have as far as the story arc is concerned.
Is it good?
Dark Ark #14 is a good issue but lacks the level of buildup in intensity or story development that we have come to expect from Bunn on this series. However, there is a bit of a cliffhanger ending which is rather exciting, and Juan Doe yet again serves up visuals that are as beautiful as they are ominous.