In Review: The Dark Age #1

I'll take as many issues of The Dark Age that Red 5 can make. Highest possible recommendation.

The cover: Against a dark red sky the Washington Monument towers over a desolate terrain. Moss and other plant life have surrounded its base and are slowly working their way up to consume it. Looking upon the forgotten structure is a lone rider on a horse. The rider wears a horned helmet. A tree’s gnarly branches creep out in the foreground on the left, while pink clouds fall along the ground. Moody image from illustrator Nicholas Ely. This is an okay cover that doesn’t really show enough of what’s inside this issue to compel readers to pick it up. Overall grade: C+

The story: This was outstanding. This is a simple premise that writer Don Hanfield really runs with. On Page 2 anything made of metal turns to dust. It starts with fork and escalates to buildings collapsing. A family is forever changed by the event with pregnant Alex hurt in the destruction, but able to give birth to the son she’s carrying. Husband Ethen and daughter Jonnie survive to live in the new world with baby Jonah. Thirteen years later, on the outskirts of New York City, Ethen and son Jonah are hunting. Jonah’s not keen on killing the captured deer, but it’s a different world. Without spoiling things, the story picks up quickly on Page 10. The individuals that cause the pair consternation are very interesting and I was surprised by the situation the father and son find themselves in on 11. The arrival on 12 is terrific and I thrilled at this character’s entrance. The series’ threat is revealed on 14 and it’s a massive one: the book’s conflict has now gone epic. The plans of the antagonists are revealed on 21 and it’s large enough of plan to be easy enough to spread over a long run of this series. A new setting is visited on the next page and I like the individuals that dwell there, as well as the teases of past history with Ethen and his children. I was really surprised by Page 24 with someone revealed to have a disability that starts a countdown clock on the character. This is an incredibly clever twist that I was not expecting and it will really have me focus on every aspect of this character in future issues. I’ve tried to be extra vague about the villains in this series because I went into this book not knowing anything about it, save the first three pages, and was incredibly surprised and incredibly pleased with what Hanfield has created. Overall grade: A+

The art: Leonard Rodrigues gets to begin this book establishing the status quo: a family eating in a restaurant in Ithaca, New York. I like how protagonist Ethen isn’t clearly shown until Page 2, making the reader eager to see what he looks like. The disintegration of his spoon is a wonderfully tiny action that looks as if Thanos snapped his fingers. Things then grow to epic levels quickly, leading to a fantastically detailed fall of the building the family was in on Page 3. The reveal of Jonnie on 5 is a heartbreaker. Thirteen years later, Ethen is definitely a different looking individual on 6. The capturing of the deer is clever, explained solely through the visuals, requiring Rodrigues to show through his art what’s occurring. The final panel on 8 sums up the horribly new reality of the world. The design of the antagonists on 10 is cool and what happens to them on 12 is cool. The entrance on this page is only missing heroic music to accompany its action. Beginning on Page 14 some of the backgrounds are photographs. It’s pretty obvious, but they don’t stand out too dramatically. The individual that ends 16 looks great and that one image sums up his future. The reactions that end 17 tell the reader how serious the situation has become. The first three panels and the fifth through seventh panels on 20 have some stellar (purposely) over-the-top acting from a character that increases this individual’s likability. These panels made me fall in love with the character. The design of the characters that live in the book’s final setting are terrific. I always enjoy this look and was incredibly happy to see it here. The final page is a full paged splash and it’s exactly the right moment to show before the characters dive into darkness next issue. Rodrigues has made a fan of me with this issue. Overall grade: A+

The colors: Also well done on this book are the colors by Dijjo Lima. The sunshine that opens the first page is the perfect accent to include in an image to introduce the humdrum life of these characters. I really like when all things metal begin to disintegrate they’re done in oranges and pinks to suggest instant rust. The red used to outline Ethen’s yell for his wife wonderfully and horrifically returns for a key moment on Page 5. The glow of the fire on 7 – 9 is neat. Having the background go a light orange on 10 is a smart way to have the horrors of the artwork stand out. The color of the discharge on 17 was a terrific choice to highlight how out of the ordinary the device is. The final panel on Page 18 is in darker colors that really accentuate the robotic reply of one character; a cloud has truly fallen over this person. When the backgrounds go orange-red on 20 and 21 they add substantially to the impending danger for an individual. I’m liking what Lima is doing. Overall grade: A+

The letters: This issue’s text created by DC Hopkins includes scene settings, dialogue, sounds, and yells. The scene settings are bold, drawing the reader’s eyes and proclaiming to the reader that a new location or time has been reached. The dialogue is easy to read and uses italics to show the stress in characters’ speech. I have to applaud Hopkins for placing the dialogue, because there is a lot of it in some panels, but it’s never placed so that key elements of the visuals are covered. The sounds are only in the first half of the book, but they look great, such as SWISSH, RARF, and SHINK. There are several different yells, going larger and bolder when the intensity of the utterances increase. Hopkins is also doing a great job on this book. Overall grade: A+

The final line: You’ll be missing out on something wonderful if you don’t add this to your pull list. The story starts small and goes epic quickly. The story possibilities are endless for this premise. The characters are engaging, with the protagonists smart and cool and the antagonists monsters. The visuals are excellent; I love the design of the characters and the settings are awesome. The colors are bright and perfect. The lettering adds to the excitement in action scenes. This is a perfect comic book. Congratulations to all involved. I’ll take as many issues of The Dark Age as you can make, Red 5. Highest possible recommendation. Overall grade: A+

To order a print copy go to http://www.red5comics.com/red-5-store/the-dark-age-1

To order a digital copy go to https://www.comixology.com/The-Dark-Age-1/digital-comic/797951?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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