After reviewing Joe Hill and Gabriel Rodriguez’s stellar Tales from the Darkside #1, I was excited to see what they would come up with next. The isolated tale of hedonism and redemption from issue one was excellent and flowed naturally, while hinting at a bigger picture. Unfortunately, the second issue seems to be suffering from a sophomore slump.
Tales from the Darkside #2 delivers on the first issue’s promise that there is a larger picture at play. Or, at the very least, it concurs with the notion that there will be some serious connective tissue to bind the mini-series, and the stories won’t be relegated to a series of standalone vignettes. However, the bigger picture this issue begins to reveal is front loaded with an information dump, something I would expect from a less seasoned writer than Joe Hill.
The tale in this issue is about a man named Brian Newman, who has the ability to alter the physical properties of reality (remember that segment Twilight Zone: The Movie with the creepy kid? Yeah, like that, kinda). Unfortunately for Brian, this power is unwieldy as one would expect. The issue does a mostly solid job conveying how out of control an ability like this can be by utilizing flashbacks to break up some of the overwrought expositional scenes (of which there are many). Desperate to find some sense normalcy, Brian takes an offer from a shady government-type to help get things under control with the help of a little bit of brain surgery (no big deal).
I’m often not one to spoil the plot of a comic in my review, but honestly, what I wrote in the last paragraph is literally all that happens in this issue. I mean, there are some nuances here and there and a creepy subplot about some dark entity that I didn’t expound on, but what should have been the first few pages of the issue, span its entirety.
It’s a shame, really. This is a great set up and I’m fairly certain the second half of the story that will run in Tales from the Darkside #3 will knock it out of the park, but as a standalone issue, it was simply dull (which it shouldn’t be considering the concept). I’m certain this will read just fine in a trade paperback, but the heavy exposition and the lack of “show, don’t tell” never let the story elevate above mediocre.
Joe Hill’s dialogue is great as usual (he seems to have a better cultural grasp on how human beings speak to one another than his father ever has). But the story beats just plod along. I feel like we should have gotten to where we were going way sooner.
Gabriel Rodriguez’s art is great as usual. He can navigate Hill’s clutter of captions and word balloons with ease, and allows his work to peek through where it can. I think Rodriguez is one of the more underutilized artists in the biz. This guy has such a great eye for staging scenes. He can also execute interesting layouts without diminishing the story structure.
This one was a bit of a letdown. While not a complete bust, Tales from the Darkside #2 didn’t knock my socks off the way the inaugural issue did. I have confidence in this creative team, so I’m sure they’ll turn this ship around (or at least steer it in the right direction). Maybe with Hill and Rodriguez I just set my standards too high.
- Stellar art work
- Solid dialogue
- Good premise with a good use of flashbacks
- Too much info front loaded into the story
- The story plods along
- Entire issue could have been told in a few pages