Dark Ark #1
By Cullen Bunn, and Ryane Hill Juan Doe
Writer Cullen Bunn is no stranger to the horror genre with such works as Harrow County, Regression, and The Empty Man under his belt, so upon hearing his latest comic with AfterShock revolves around an alternate telling of “The Flood” biblical story, who wouldn’t be intrigued? What if there was another ark that housed the mythical and supernatural species? Who would be the Noah equivalent running this ship and what dangers would one encounter aboard this vessel? That’s the basic premise and artist Juan Doe and Bunn run with it (or set sail with it, in this case).
What is refreshing about this comic is that Cullen Bunn doesn’t spend a lot of time presenting exposition. He figures that everyone is at least familiar with Noah’s story, so he delves deep into the politics between the creatures and the uneasy alliance between them and the family taking care of all the animals and the ark. The patriarch, Shrae, has a backstory that is an interesting mirror image of Noah’s – two sides of the same coin, basically. Doe and Bunn use this issue to show readers the various occupants of the ship and gain insight into its layout. The use of color to distinguish different areas of the craft was a sharp move and sets the ominous mood that the team is clearly going for. It may not seem like a lot is taking place and may not quickly captivate, as a first issue should during a first pass, but there is a lot present within the pages at a smooth, digestible pace, that absolutely has potential for a strong narrative. It may not have the most exciting ending either, but it opens the floodgates for some serious conflicts to arise and, considering the entities on board, there is prime material for extremely dark compelling storytelling.
Juan Doe handles the entire art process for the book. Ranging from having a lightning storm to various ominous creatures in a background, he does solid work making each panel have depth and dimension. The human characters are fairly detailed, from their clothing to their physical shapes, except when it comes to their faces, specifically their eyes. He uses eyebrows mostly to convey their emotion. It’s almost a bit ‘cartoony,’ for lack of a better term. Also, the pages are laid out in a fairly orthodox structure; it would have been nice to see form match the wild content – experiment a little. Doe does do a nice job, though, of presenting the story and not trying stuff a ton of information into the panels. It reads with ease.
Overall, Dark Ark has a decent premise and a modest start. It’s not without its faults, but there’s enough goodwill, effort, and interesting content for readers to continue with the series. It’s worth giving it a little leeway to see how the comic progresses and hopefully evolves.