DARK ARK, VOL. 1
Writer: Cullen Bunn
Illustrator: Juan Doe
WHAT IS IT?
You know the story of Noah's Ark? Probably, right? Well, there was a second ark and, on it, were all the demons and monsters of the old world.
This is their story.
WHAT’S IT ABOUT?
If you haven't heard the story of Noah's Ark, it stems from the Judeo-Christian belief that the world was so evil that God chose to flood it with 40 days and 40 nights of rain, killing everything on the Earth except for Noah, his family, and two of each animal on Earth. Artists still are not sure how the lions survived. Noah, his family, and the animals rode out the storms in a massive boat he built, called an "ark."
Cullen Bunn & Juan Doe bring us the story of a second ark, not mentioned in any tome before now. This ark is filled with demons and monsters and other mythical creatures. The sorcerer, Shrae, is ship's captain, and he watches over his family and the creatures in the cargo hold below. Oh, also some people they kept as prisoners/food for the monsters on their journey.
The “Dark Lord” promises to keep them safe so long as they follow some conditions. First, they don’t harm the other ark. The dark creatures need prey in their new world. In fact, if either ark fails to keep its inhabitants alive, Shrae and his family will burn in Hell forever. Not even death can save them.
So that’s fun. Now, there are more than two of each monster on this ark, at least, in some cases. This is good and helpful because someone (or some...thing) has murdered on of the creatures, and Shrae needs to solve the mystery before demons on each side tear each other, and the ark, apart.
The first chapter being called '40 Nights' is a brilliant way to set the stage for how "Dark Ark" follows the ark filled with demons and monsters.
Juan Doe's lines are crisp and clean, with lots of darkness and shading, keeping it true to the "Dark" promise of the title.
Doe's panels follow a fairly standard pace, and they're often positioned horizontally, like you're watching the events play out in widescreen.
The portrayal of scenes and body language can feel exaggerated, playing up the drama and contrasting the monsters' evil with the purity and helplessness of the humans.
Speaking of drama and pacing, there are some really fantastic splashes and spreads in this first trade that show the wild and nightmarish gaggle of ghouls that exist belowdecks on this dark ark.
Colors are flatter, yet vibrant. Combined with the anime stylings, it may put readers in mind of darker animes, like the current Castlevania series.
There are few skin tones in this, with the cast of characters made up of so many infernal creatures. Almost the entire palette are angry reds, sickly yellows and toxic greens.
You'd expect Shrae to be an "evil Noah," but Bunn really makes you care about him and his family. You get the sense that he's no longer evil, but doesn't want to let others know he wants to atone for the sins of his past. Plus, the feeling that they're not safe from the Powers That Be above, nor the powder keg below, holds you in suspense and makes you care about Shrae's family, and even their prisoners, even more.
The monsters themselves are fascinating. Some are more evil than others or, at least, some have motives that align more with the humans'...for now, anyway. But there's also strange kind of intrigue that comes from seeing the different kinds of monsters and demons represented here, from staples like vampires and dragons, to others fans of fantasy might recognize, like the naga and manticore.
Ryane Hill gets to break out some fun, monster-inspired fonts for several of the different beasts. It's not over-the-top, like a '90s comic where everyone had their own unique balloons, but it's just enough to differentiate some of the monsters in busier scenes of dialogue.
Hill and Dave Sharpe's balloons are positioned perfectly to guide the eye, especially when panel layout has the potential to be confusing.
WHAT DOESN’T WORK?
As you may be able to figure out from the story description, Dark Ark probably isn't the best read for kids. It's a lot of blood, violence, and evil things.
WHY SHOULD I READ IT?
Dark Ark is a success from Page 1. The concept alone sells it. But Cullen Bunn and Juan Doe don't disappoint – Volume 1 is a hell of a ride, and the ending sows the seeds for even more horrors to come. If you're in the mood for some supernatural Biblical horror, this is the comic for you.
WHAT DO I READ NEXT?
If you like the writing:
The Sixth Gun, Vol. 1 by Cullen Bunn & Brian Hurtt
Gideon Falls, Vol. 1 by Jeff Lemire & Andrea Sorrentino
Redneck, Vol. 1 by Donny Cates & Lisandro Estherren
If you like the art:
Strayed by Carlos Giffoni & Juan Doe
East of West, Vol. 1 by Jonathan Hickman & Nick Dragotta
Pestilence, Vol. 1 by Frank Tieri & Oleg Okunev
ABOUT THE CREATORS
Cullen Bunn – Writer
Test of Time: Has written horror comics for creator-owned titles and superhero comics for Marvel for years
Also writes novels and short stories
Runs YouTube channel with fellow comics writer, Dennis Hopeless (which mentioned yours truly in episode 3!)
Juan Doe – Artist
On his art, in his own words: "The images he creates are snippets of warp speed hallucinations colliding with the split second reactions to the cultural zeitgeist."
Often, you'll see his art gracing comic book covers, probably thanks to his unique, bold style
Ryane Hill – Letterer (issues #1-3, 5)
Does not seem to have much of an online presence since quitting Twitter in April of 2017
Dave Sharpe – Letterer (issue #4)
Mostly does lettering work for DC and Valiant Comics
Multitalented: Also plays bass for the band, Dead Cowboy
Mike Marts – Editor
Name Recognition: Is the Editor-in-Chief for AfterShock comics
Recently made an appearance on Dreamer Comics Podcast, where he spoke about turning comics into a career.
Corey Breen – Book Designer
Multitalented: Has also worked as a letterer for DC Comics and BOOM! Studios
John J. Hill – Logo Designer
Multitalented: Also does multimedia, lettering, graphic design, photography, and illustration work.
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