In Review: Dark Red #4

Dark Red is pure gold. Highest possible recommendation.

The cover: Evie Keen runs for her life within in the old Superior Oil Refinery pursued by seven vampires that seem to be crawling on every possible surface. Her flesh is littered with puncture marks where some of these blasphemous creatures have been feeding off her. The fear on her face is believable given the frightful faces of the blood suckers, some even sporting Nazi tattoos. Artist Aaron Campbell is teasing things to come on this violet and crimson colored cover. Overall grade: A

The story: This issue really expands the universe of Dark Red. Tim Seeley starts this issue in Chicago at Nero’s, a massive dance club that’s filled to its limit. Upstairs Ashen Black continues to cry at the loss of three of her favorite thralls. Ms. Crise suggests to Skelter, Black’s bodyguard, that it’s time someone put Black down. He disagrees, saying Chicago’s a mess and he doesn’t want to inherit it. The story then moves to a bathroom at the Superior Oil Refinery where Evie is being held prisoner with pregnant Lynn Jansen, the woman whose husband was killed while they were hunting. As Lynn begins to worry at what will happen to her unborn child, the door opens and Toad Warrior, a vampire sporting Nazi tattoos, enter, looking to pick a snack for his boss who’s upset at Victor’s passing. He initially grabs Lynn because she’s pregnant, but Evie convinces him she’d be better. “I’ve got cancer. I make too many red blood cells. A vamp can feed off me long and slow. Trust me, I know.” She’s taken to a room and duct taped to a table where Kamille is revealed to be the new vampire in charge of the hate group. The blonde beast smiles when she realizes the Alabaster Bloods will be agitated by Victor’s death. Meanwhile, Chip is planning out what to do now that he’s killed Victor at the Buffalo Jump Gas station. He quickly tells Stu and Cam what he’s going to do, rescue Evie, and why he’s going to do it. There’s a funny panel that ends Page 7 with Chip gearing up for battle. The speech that Cam gives is fantastic and the song that accompanies this monologue won’t get out of my head — Thanks, Mr. Seeley. There’s a quick return to Evie and Kamille with something almost revealed before a truck arrives. The story then follows Chip, Stu, and Cam as they enter the oil refinery and encounter trouble. It’s tense and has a wonderful exit scene for one character. The final page is guaranteed to make readers return next month. Things just got immeasurably worse. Overall grade: A+

The art: Corin Howell‘s art is terrific. The first page is the only time the reader gets to see Black and her club in Chicago, but it’s obviously going to be a location that’s going to be returned to. Skelter is a big, buff guy and he’s sure to appear later, as is Ms. Crise whose off center look has me looking forward to seeing more of her. The two pages in the bathroom are tense. It’s such a small, antiseptic space with Lynn’s obvious state a horrific factor in their future. The Toad Warrior is a fright, with his bald head, mouth of teeth, and many tattoos that don’t belong on a human, let alone a vamp. The visuals in the Buffalo Jump are great, starting with Chip using some unnatural speed on the sixth page. I love that he gets Stu what he wanted and it’s never brought up, only that he gets it — classy and funny. The items that Chip picks had me laughing and his action on 8 seems taken straight out of a vampire film. I love the raging images of Cam, especially the third panel. Pages 10 and 11 have Kamille being the perfect evil seductress, with her atop her prey. Her teeth are a constant reminder that she’s not human. The shared look on 13 had me laugh out loud. Before anything can be revealed about his past, Stu was breaking my heart with how he reacts to a character on 14. When two of the characters are on their own, I really like how much black is used to create darkness. It makes the space they’re in seem huge and capable of hiding any number of threats. The action on 16 and 17 is fierce, while the fifth panel on 18 is awesome. The last page is a full-paged splash and it’s the largest number of characters ever shown in this book. The point of view, as well as the excellent use of black space, make this a wonderful/horrible way to end the issue. Overall grade: A+

The colors: Throughout this book colors by Mark Englert direct the reader’s eye. Notice how the first panel of the book has only two colors. One is in the second panel a lot, but the second leads out a door, which if the reader follows leads to the third panel with that background. The colors of the club are how a reader would expect. The interior of the bathroom is in several shades of gray, a lifeless color that increases the tension for the women locked in there. Toad Warrior’s speech is in a dark red and outline with an irregular border, making his speech ferocious whenever he speaks. Kamille’s nude body and yellow hair has her standout in each panel she appears, and her eyes herald her horrible nature. I love the yellow for the item that Chip gets Stu and it’s repeated for a sound brilliantly. The yellows, orange, and reds when Cam gives his speech are perfection. When the trio makes their way into the oil refinery Englert uses blues to create the night, rather than using black which would overwhelm the art. Smart. I like that yellows outline Chip’s vampire dialogue, showing the reader he’s using his vamp abilities for something other than what Toad did. The bright yellow that ends 18 is beautiful. Overall grade: A+

The letters: Marshall Dillon is the letterer who creates this issue’s dialogue, scene settings, sounds, signage, a song, whispered text, and yells. The scene settings stand out every time they appear, alerting the reader to a change in locale. The sounds are many and match their actions, with the vampires’ hissing and moaning always looking strong. The signage brings a level of reality into the visuals, with the signs and package labels resembling those one would find in the real world. The song looks like it would sound. Whispered text is used for a broken character’s speech, quiet talk in enemy territory, and someone under a vampire’s influence. This text pulls the reader closer into the book, having them experience the moment more intensely. Overall grade: A+

The final line: Dark Red is pure gold. The story is exciting and frightening. The visuals are realistic and horrible in its creation of the undead. The colors intensify the text and the art on the page. The letters bring a level of reality to the proceedings and amplify every sound and whisper to monstrous levels. This is a perfect horror comic. I can’t get enough of this series. Highest possible recommendation. Overall grade: A+

To order a digital copy go to https://www.comixology.com/Dark-Red-4/digital-comic/778454?ref=c2VhcmNoL2luZGV4L2Rlc2t0b3Avc2xpZGVyTGlzdC90b3BSZXN1bHRzU2xpZGVy

To see the cover visit my Instagram account: patrickhayesscifipulse

Patrick Hayes was a contributor to the Comic Buyer's Guide for several years with "It's Bound to Happen!" and he's reviewed comics for TrekWeb and TrekCore. He's taught 8th graders English for 20 years and has taught high school English for five years and counting. He reads everything as often as he can, when not grading papers or looking up Star Trek, Star Wars, or Indiana Jones items online.
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