Friday, November 17, 2017

Review - Dark Fang #1 (@imagecomics)


"I call forth my powers. It was foolish to begin without them."

Climate change is real and it's happening fast. It's on humanity to take steps to slow the damage, but there are some who don't feel the need to step up. That's where an environmentally conscious vampire like Valla in Dark Fang #1 from Image Comics comes in. The issue is written by Miles Gunter, illustrated by Kelsey Shannon and lettered by Taylor Esposito.

Her name is Valla. In life she was a fisherwoman. In death she is a vampire residing peacefully on the bottom of the ocean. When a mysterious dark plague descends upon her aquatic paradise, she must venture to the surface in search of answers. What she finds is a world headed towards an environmental collapse that will eventually wipe out her food supply. If Valla is to continue to have the blood she needs to survive, then she must stop the fossil fuel industries from destroying the planet—no matter the cost.

The overarching theme in Dark Fang #1 of climate change is a very ambitious one, even if it's barely discussed in the first issue. Instead, Gunter focuses on Valla as the lead character, giving the reader a quick look at her history and how she's coping with the present. The bulk of the issue revolves around Valla adapting to a society obsessed with feedback and willing to pay good money for it thanks to social media. Gunter's approach actually make the series seem to be a lot more about the social media feedback loop than anything else as it spends much more time on that path. The pacing of the issue is a little jarring because of this as Gunter moves quickly through Valla finding a "career," flashing back to her time before being a vampire and then coming back to the present where her ambitions are laid bare.

Shannon got the laid bare memo as well, seeing as how the illustrations are hyper-sexualized to reinforce Valla's existence as a hedonistic vampire. The artistic approach by Shannon is very slick and Valla is presented as almost a fantasy; her looks definitely fit well with her plan to get money from viewers. Aside from the sexiness, Shannon also emphasizes her more vampiric nature by working in a few scenes of gore that don't come across as that gory thanks to the somewhat cartoonish illustrative approach. Panels are laid out just as cleanly as the artwork, as Shannon relies on the clean, empty gutters to better emphasize the artwork. And the colors are vibrant in a way that seems counter-intuitive for a book about a vampire, but it works because of the more modern nature of the story.

Dark Fang #1 really embraces the concept of a vampire as a sex symbol and runs with it. Valla seems to have a grander mission in mind though, even if it's not entirely apparent in the first issue. Gunter's script seems to have larger ambitions, but by the end of the first issue that aim is a little murky. Shannon's artwork is very modern and cartoonish in its appearance, adding a bit of levity to the story that's otherwise intended to be pretty deep. Dark Fang #1 is being billed as a statement on climate change even if it doesn't really delve too much into that aspect of things by the end of the issue.

Dark Fang #1 is available now.

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