Review: The Darkness – Vicious Traditions #1

I like the Darkness. He’s an interesting character and unlike Witchblade it has endless potential. The reason being that The Darkness is an anti-hero title, whereas Witchblade‘s Sara needs to be inherently good. The Darkness as a character can walk the fine line between good and evil and dance on either side of the line without so much as a care. For some reason though I don’t keep up with the ongoing series; I don’t know if it has a bi-monthly shipping schedule or what, but I rarely see it and definitely not enough to keep up with it.

There is another reason I’m checking out this series and that’s Ales Kot. I’m curious about Kot’s work, but I’ve actually only read one thing from him and that’s the first issue of Zero, his creator-owned Image series. I have an interest in reading more of Zero, but time has kept me from catching up. Otherwise I hear great things about his writing and that made me curious when I saw his name on this title. The Darkness really is a “company” character since Top Cow/Image Founder Marc Silvestri created the character that has since spun off into two decently successful video games outside of its long running series. With the Darkness being a founding character of the company, what could Kot do with it? What would he be allowed to do with the character?

The story takes place during the era of the Roman Empire. We find the Darkness dead on the battlefield, but as night falls his body rebuilds and we see him come back to life. He invades the Roman camp killing men along the way. He comes face to face with the commander of the army and they have a very engaging conversation. It sets the stage for the battle that is to come.

DarknessVT01-CoverKot has a wonderful narration that runs throughout the entire issue. It’s from Estacado’s perspective and while it doesn’t directly tie into the visuals it connects to the theme of the issue. It’s very well done and gives you a great look into Estacado’s mind. Additionally the dialogue is straight to the point. It doesn’t spend time messing around and instantly builds the characters via conversation. You will know everything you need to about the commander from his dialogue with Estacado and that will be enough for you to like him.

The art was unlike anything I’ve seen on the Darkness, but it was an amazing fit for the story. Dean Ormston crafts so much of the story with his visuals. Since the narration has little to do with the content on the page it’s as if Ormston ran free with the visuals. His battles are realistic and violent. Not gory, not bloody, but violent. There is a real sense of death on the battlefield when it’s under Ormston’s pencils. His character designs were again different for this series. Rather than the smooth beefcake line work that the series is usually known for; Ormston’s penciling is thicker, rounder and grittier. The characters are ugly because the era was ugly. In particular I enjoyed the visuals when the two commanders where talking. Something about the way Estacado was drawn made him look very supernatural, but also very creepy. It was a gorgeous looking scene and it was just a conversation.

The brilliant thing about this issue is that you don’t need to know anything about The Darkness. It doesn’t rely upon you having an extensive background with the character and while it’s clear this isn’t going to be an ongoing or a reboot of the franchise, it is a solid miniseries that may just introduce the character to people who have never read an issue before. Top Cow’s one-off mini’s are always some of my favorite because their character’s unique pasts have a rich and extensive history to play with. This issue does just that and in doing so is entertaining and well worth the purchase.

Score: 4/5

Writer: Ales Kot Artist: Dean Ormston Publisher: Image/Top Cow Price: $3.99 Release Date: 3/5/14