By Jonathan Edwards
The first issue of this book left me of two minds. Primarily, I quite enjoyed it. Even the story beats did get somewhat by-the-book, they're at least used to build an interesting world and characters. Alternatively, the story has a fairly strong overtone of social commentary, but it's not entirely evident what that commentary is. With all of the hatred of demons shown by the human characters, you'd think the main issue would be racism. However, the use of the Islamic term "Shaitan" for the demons, describing them as being made up of energy (which one could argue is the real-world equivalent of "smokeless fire"), and someone literally criticizing Muslims on the first page, makes Islamophobia just as likely, if not more, to be the intended target. Of course, it could just as easily be both and then some, rather than one or the other. But, it could also be neither, as the Shaitan are portrayed as not particularly trustworthy and/or benevolent beings. I only bring this up at the beginning of the review because it was still rolling around the back of my mind when I started reading this issue.
Darkness Visible #2 is still busy setting up the plot, and it's not until we reach the end that everything finally feels ready to kick off. That being said, the issue does a pretty good job of keeping up the pace and characterization, so I really didn't mind sitting through more setup. If anything, it was actually interesting to see how exactly it all clicked together, even with the typical story beats still in play. Because really, tropes only really start to feel cliché when are writer uses them at face value instead of as a foundation to build off of.
The exact message of the social commentary remains not entirely clear. The question of "consent" relating to Shaitan's possessing humans is brought up, both in the foreground and background of the story, but then there's also a discussion on the nature of racism and how to move past it by accepting the "other" as being just as bad, rather than good, as you. Assuming this book isn't actually championing some misanthropic view of human equality, perhaps the intent is to just construct a plausible prejudice that would likely exist in a world where humans and demons lived together. Although, personally, the on the nose connections to Islam still make me feel that the message of the commentary is much more specific and timely in nature.
The art continues to be one of the strongest aspects of this book. The designs for the various Shaitan we've seen so far have all been interesting and varied while not being so stylistically different that they don't look right next to one another. I'm really curious to see what else we'll see in future issues and just how crazy they might get. Furthermore, a unique aesthetic is established from the juxtaposition of the Shaitan and the fairly mundane backgrounds and naturalistic depiction of light. Stylization is to be expected when the subject is supernatural forces that warp our sense of reality, so there's something compelling about doing the opposite.
I think it's safe to say that Darkness Visible has me hooked. Maybe not for the long run, but for a few more issues at least. There's a lot of potential here as long as the writing doesn't get sloppy. If you picked up the first issue and liked it, you'll definitely want to grab this one too. If you're looking for something completely different, this probably isn't the book for you. But, for a solid read complete with some contemporary fantasy world building, I think this is worth checking out. Plus, I can't think of any reason you'd really have to have read the previous installment to get the full enjoyment of this one.
Darkness Visible #2