DAME FROM THE DARK
Writer: Rob Pilkington
Illustrator: Kit Mills
Letterer: Ariana Maher
Editor: Sebastian Girner
Publisher: TKO Studios
WHAT IS IT?
A stylish mystery centered around a private detective who teams up with a ghost from the 1920s.
Think Moonlighting if Maddie Hayes (Cybil Shepherd) was the ghost of Elizabeth Short (the “Black Dahlia”).
WHAT’S IT ABOUT?
Tommy is trying his hand at being a private detective. His current assignment has brought him to The Magic Manor in Los Angeles where he'll take in Le Samson Fantastique’s show...and track down one of his assistants, Nico.
Despite appearances, Tommy doesn’t work alone, but has a partner named Eva with a very unique skill set: Eva is a ghost.
Partnering with Eva to make some cash isn’t everything Tommy imagined it would be, but luckily for Tommy, he has a few tricks of his own up his sleeve. Can Tommy and Eva work together to get Nico back to her family? Is Eva helping Tommy out of the kindness of her (dead) heart or is she hoping Tommy can return the favor?
Pilkington’s dialogue is the stand-out here as he nails the character of Tommy as a downtrodden P.I. with a dry, sarcastic sense of humor. Also enjoyable is the obnoxiously fake and abusive “Fantastic Sam” with his "Vapeable Leisure and Lifestyle Products sponsorship."
From the first page, Mills’ artwork is extraordinary. Of particular note is how the background characters are outlined, giving all of Magic Manor a ghostly quality reminiscent of The Overlook Hotel from The Shining, which perfectly sets the stage for the comic to unfold.
Maher’s lettering is exceptional in its font style and placement, allowing for fast-paced reading even in the wordier panels. Maher's sound effects impress, especially on the page with Tommy’s jacket mishap near the end. The effects add so much to the comedy of that moment that otherwise would have fallen flat in lesser hands.
There’s a wonderful sense of humor at play here, from Tommy’s reactions to Eva’s playfulness and more. Pilkington, Mills, and Maher are all perfectly in sync for the jokes to land.
Mills’ coloring choices may change to signify a new location but are always vibrant, giving the book its characteristic aesthetic while also allowing Eva’s gray to stand out in contrast.
This comic wouldn't work half as well if the relationship between Tommy and Eva wasn't interesting. Pilkington accomplishes this with light antagonistic banter from the very beginning, but chooses to not show Eva on the first page. The team instead opts to have her represented by Maher's gray speech bubble with white lettering to match Mills' coloring for the character. It helps land the reveal of Eva at the top of page 2 and draws the reader into the story.
The details of Tommy and Eva's current job are doled out over the course of the story which helps retain the reader's interest, as though we were working the case alongside them, while also avoiding too much exposition at the same time.
As more is learned about Eva, Tommy (literally) and the reader are drawn into her story, elevating the stakes for both Tommy and Eva.
The strength of this comic isn't in all-out action, but the action panels here are rendered realistically by Mills and complemented by Maher's SFX.
WHAT DOESN’T WORK?
CW: There are a few instances of coarse language and depictions of physical abuse.
This story is called 'Fast Times at Magic Manor!: A Dame from the Dark Tale,' but there isn't anything in the story itself that references or shares a common element with Fast Times at Ridgemont High.
That's it! This is the 4th TKO Short and, like the 3 prior, there is little to criticize in substance or execution.
WHY SHOULD I READ IT?
If you've been waiting for a comic with mismatched partners investigating and solving mysteries while doling out witty banter, then wait no more. Dame from the Dark combines seemingly disparate elements in a very smart way. It's a bit of a noir and a ghost story, with a twist of a modern sense of humor.
This is a creative team that could absolutely turn this into an ongoing series of Dame from the Dark tales, and I truly hope they do. The foundation is solid; we're more than excited to see the rest of the house.
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