The Dark #2: The Howl is a study in how a cover can lead you astray. I was ready to write this series from Alterna Comics off when I first saw it. Not from some intuition that it would be bad. That’s silly. It’s horror. I’m still adjusting to the genre and deliberately walking towards scares is not my natural tread.
I don’t want to say The Dark #2, by first time guest writer, Matt Harvey, and artist/series creator, Kelly Williams, isn’t scary but not everyone looks like the banshee on the cover and for some reason my mind assumed they would, that there’d be no regular people, only really scary looking critters like cover lady. Instead, we meet an Irish man and his mother. The man’s baby girl is sick and they are searching the forest for the healer they heard might be able to help. In the short time they’ve been in America the man has had to cope with the loss of his wife, from the fever his child’s picked up, and the winds are getting worse as they walk. If they didn’t know better, and were still in Ireland, they’d say they were hearing a banshee.
This isn’t Supernatural, where one of the brothers (usually Sam) gives you the cliff notes version of the monster-of-the-week. On the plus side, no narration, putting the story entirely in the present, and putting readers at the disadvantage of insider family conversation, where they know what they’re referring to but are under no obligation to spill. But if you’re a little hazy on your banshee knowledge then you might not remember their cry is usually taken to be a signal of impending death. When you’re in a forest with your sick daughter, that’s not the omen you want, and the man is a little too wishy-washy in his reaction to the stakes.
The Dark #2 is a short but unsettling story, somewhat hurt by overcrowded panels. There’s a dread that comes from claustrophobia, but the effect is overruled by words being crushed. The characters’ Irish brogues are lyrical and lack pretense. I’d hesitate to wish any of the dialogue shortened. The bent figures and towering trees leave a good amount of space but, beyond adding a few more panels to spread the story out, so the art can breath, one small change that I think could’ve made the difference is limiting the wind sound effects. A banshee story needs wind but I think it was one layer too many sometimes, of words behind words around art. When the man acts surprised by a sound you find yourself asking, why this one? The sparing use of color, where it’s not strictly black and white but has some blues and lavenders-greys(?) mixed in gives dimension to the piece. I won’t make the mistake of overlooking this series again.