Story: Cullen Bunn
Art: Juan Doe
Letterer: Ryane Hill
What They Say:
As the floodwaters rise, Shrae’s ark full of fiendish beasts continues on its seemingly endless voyage. But below deck, the matriarch of the naga clan has been viciously slain, and the monstrous voyagers are quick to point clawed fingers to blame each other for the murder. As tensions rise among the monsters, Shrae’s very human family is at risk of becoming victims themselves.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers):
The opening installment of Dark Ark really caught me off guard as I went in not knowing anything about it, which is how I like to do it with new AfterShock series. The creators are working some interesting ground and playing with familiar ideas in new ways that are best discovered in a raw kind of way. Cullen Bunn definitely got the first issue to work well for me and that carries through here but it’s all being elevated not just by some fantastic designs and layouts from Juan Doe but some striking color work that goes into it all. It’s a visual delight and one that could be tripped up by poor lettering thanks to the variety of creatures here but Ryane Hill delivers big time in making it distinct but also easily readable, which isn’t always the case on some other series that have similar concepts worked.
The murder of Maldroon is something that has set events into motion in a big way here as we get the chaos below decks but also starting to filter up when the werewolves come a hunting. The chained humans on that level are fearful but also thinking it may be time for a mutiny of sorts to ensure their own survival over the fiendish creatures below. Kruul’s arrival is what saves them but Kruul is most definitely cruel and careful as he ensures that Jandris and the others watch and understand what he’s doing, to make clear that he has the power and that they’re inferior beasts before him. It’s done off-page mostly but the relaying of that from Jandris to Khalee later when she comes below to check on everyone makes clear that it was a traumatic event. And one that would define how people go forward from it because it is something you can visualize as brutally violent.
The tensions further down is where the real drama is, however, and I’m in love. The push by someone to identify Nex the vampire as the culprit is strong and Shrae’s arrival has them making the case while also pushing that he has no real jurisdiction over them. There’s a lot of tension to this because all of what’s happened is because of God but many like Nex know that the world is changing and their control over it will disappear unless they do something. And as many of the beasts make clear, they know Shrae has no real interest in them but is doing this as part of his own larger bargain. I love all the infighting going on here and how Nex is just a classically dangerous and cunning vampire, aloof amid the beasts, but having a strange kind of ally in Kruul of all people. But what makes it all the more engaging and terrifying is the artwork as Juan Doe really goes all out here with it to just make them distinct and classical but also a bit looser in a way that allows them almost feel like they may shapeshift into something new once their journey ends.
Dark Ark got my attention easily with the first issue and the second one really does cement my interest in it. Cullen Bunn has something that’s intriguing and tense as it feels like a powder keg ready to blow and that’s something that Juan Doe brings to life wonderfully panel after panel. I’ve enjoyed his artwork before but this feels like he’s operating on a whole other level and coming into it with a kind of creative freedom that’s just taking it to a new height. This issue ramps things up, explores more of the creature dynamics, and sets in motion more of the chaos that’s going to follow. I can’t wait to have more and at the same time I’m fearful of how it’s going to end, and how quickly we’ll end up at that point. Very recommended.
Age Rating: 17+
Released By: AfterShock Comics
Release Date: October 25th, 2017