In Review: Dark Red #3

You can't go wrong with vampires during WWII. Simply outstanding.

The cover: A German soldier runs in fear as a vampire wearing a serviceman’s uniform holds the body of a man whom he’s just fed from. The vampire holds his left hand out in the classic Bela Lugosi pose as it tilts back its head and issues a scream to the frightened solider. Excellent cover from Aaron Campbell with the characters looking cool and the setting, especially that piece of a structure that’s still standing, looks great. I like the colors, too, with the setting in violet and the characters in blue with the sky a pasty red to magnify the horror that’s occurred. Based on this frontpiece it looks like this issue will include some flashback material — I’m ready! Overall grade: A+

The story: This issues begins by showing the reader the fight between Chip and Victory Varney last issue, since it wasn’t shown. Victor is winning, shoving Chip backwards, spilling the contents of a several racks of snacks; chips and candy go flying. They’re fighting because Victor, and his group, want to move in to Chip’s territory and Chip has discovered that Victor is a Nazi. The Antagonist is shoving Chip’s head into the ground. “Doing things right and customary plays big with your type! You couldn’t used that to your advantage! You could’ve had whatever you wanted! All you had to do was not ask stupid f***ing questions, and you could have walked right down easy street! Now I gotta kill you, man!” Chip is looking at a piece of broken candy on the floor, reflecting his face. His image transitions into Jesus and the candy becomes a piece of glass. It’s now WWII and soldier Ipswich is looking a piece of glass from a church the Nazis blew up. His friend and fellow grunt Joseph Landry then have a quick discussion about God, ending with the protagonist saying, “Sooner or later, you face up to facts. We’ve got to look out for each other…because no one up above is gonna do it for us.” That’s when their captain orders all to get back in the jeeps, they’re moving on to Paris. Along the way they pass a group of Frenchwomen with Joe translating. The Nazis massacred their village. They tell Joe something else, but he doesn’t bring it up until he and Chip are alone. Chip is shown to be an expert marksman as he shoots a German soldier. There’s something surprising/not surprising on the dead man. Something then happens to Chip with him meeting up with an unexpected new character. Writer Tim Seeley does this introduction and rationale for Chip’s change very smoothy. Page 14 has a surprising revelation and it’s followed by a graphic awakening on 15. I like that 15 – 18 are told through letters Chip is writing to his parents and what eventually happens to these letters. The story returns to the present on 19, showing on Chip beat Victor in an awesome way. The last four panels close the book with a foreboding cliffhanger. Outstanding. Overall grade: A+

The art: The second panel of this book perfectly captures the chaos of the vampires beginning to fight as the merchandise goes flying everywhere. I love the details in this panel. The transition between the fifth and sixth panel by Corin Howell is cinematic. The reveal from the turn of a page is excellent — the bombed out church and the characters’ clothes perfectly create a change of setting and time for the reader. By having the soldiers in a location with no standing structures allows Howell to have the characters’ reactions to their conversation add considerably to their dialogue: the reader will wholly focus on these people. The violence that starts the top of 5 is great and I love the third panel showing the new location and the discovery made at the bottom. The bottom of 7 is excellent visual foreshadowing. The point of view on 9 is fun because the character the reader is seeing these panels through is not shown, making the reader worry at what the individual’s physical state is. The waking at the top of Page 11 is a good tease of what’s occurred if a reader is looking close enough at the panel. The look of the new character at the bottom of this page is outstanding. The top of 14 contains so much visual information it could carry into future storylines forever. The full-paged splash on 15 is a brilliant showcase for carnage. The two panels that end 18 is perfect visual storytelling that alerts the reader to a character’s solution to a problem. The character in distress on 20 looks incredible. I loved this illustration last issue and it it continues to horrify and pull me in closer to look at all the details. Speaking of horrified, the last panel projects this worry fabulously. Howell is a stunning artist. Overall grade: A+

The colors: I also must sing the praises of colorist Mark Englert. The second panel on the first page is the perfect mix of every color for the confectionery flying about. I love the hot pinks for the candy Chip faces, though his eye is still undead yellow, and the yellows for the stained glass that Chip’s looking at in the past. However, one should note that Jesus’s eye is also colored undead yellow. Coincidence? Time will tell! The gray skies that are the pages that follow age the pages’ content, evoking the black and white imagery that millions have seen when looking at stills from this time period. The splat of gore on 5 is a visual blast of color to the reader, as is the yellow streak that foretells it. Notice how the sound for this action is colored black, a rarity in comics. The yellow glow on the characters in the hotel is a great way to remind the reader of the dark setting. The bright colors that end 10 are stunning and a great reminder that one character will never see them again. I love the yellows and faint reds on the character on 11. Notice how the colors darken the further one goes down 15, mirroring the violence occurring. The call on 20 is increased in power by the red and orange coloring. Fantastic! Overall grade: A+

The letters: Marshall Dillon creates scene settings, dialogue, text from a handwritten letter, sounds, and a call. The strong font used for the scene settings is like a blast in the reader’s face, demanding they pay attention to the change, as it’s going to be important. The text from the letters won me over completely because it’s in handwriting and I miss my students not using it any more in their writing. The call at the end of the issue reverberated off the page. It looks great. Overall grade: A+

The final line: You can’t go wrong with vampires during WWII. Chip’s turning is revealed as is how he ultimately beat Victor. The visuals were great and I would love to see Howell doing more in the 1940’s. Victor’s death is disgustingly cool. This is a book that every horror fan should have. Simply outstanding. Overall grade: A+

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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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