Image Comics’ The Dark Room

There’s always room for more dark fantasy books on the shelf. And Image Comics’ latest original graphic novel, The Dark Room turns the magical dial up to 11. Created by writer Gerry Duggan, artist Scott Buoncristiano, colorist Tamra Bonvillain, and letterer Joe Sabino, this book refuses to take its foot off the accelerator pedal — for better or worse.

The book begins by introducing the concept of a camera that has the ability to capture what lies beneath the surface. Known as “The Eye of the Abyss,” it allows people to see the true form or curses lurking beneath the object in the photo. Dounia, a private curator, is hired by the mysterious Mr. Outis to find the camera, but she knows that she needs to find it before Outis does. So she heads off with her skeleton friend of hers, Walt the Dancing Bones of Time Square, on an adventure to locate the mysterious camera. Along the way, they cross paths with werewolves, vampires, and other monsters.

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The first part of The Dark Room takes place in the past and grips the reader with a terrifying and intriguing premise. There’s a horror element to it that instantly frightens, evoking memories of Scott Derrickson’s Sinister or even Netflix’s Archive 81. As the story moves towards the present, Duggan establishes a maze of interconnected narratives. While there’s no disputing that he can write a good tale, there are far too many conflicting ideas and characters for a 100-page story. If this had been spread out across a longer arc or even 12 issues, there would be more room to flesh out and build this world. Walt, for example, is meant to be a fun character, but he comes across as more shoehorned than purposeful.

Despite the fast and furious narrative, Buoncristiano’s illustrations capture the chaos in an eye-catching manner. The detail is impressive and adds a powerful spark to the intricate story. The Dark Room takes place across various settings, and Buoncristiano captures each one perfectly, never shying away from adding a little more to each building or location. The level of detail here is simply remarkable.

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Bonvillain is the unheralded star of The Dark Room. While Buoncristiano lays out the blueprint through his penciling and inking, the colorist injects the book with vibrancy and a tinge of darkness. Bonvillain understands the dark fantasy elements of the tale and chooses the right hues and contrasts for each character and setting. Sabino does the heavy lifting with the lettering since there are a lot of captions and conversations to cover. The letterer finds a way to include everything that needs to be said without distracting from the art.

The Dark Room holds promise, but it never fully delivers on its potential due to its ambitious but muddled narrative. That said, there’s something special about this world, even if it hasn’t been unlocked yet. It is only the first volume of this story, though, and the final page hints at future adventures for Dounia and her conspirators de ella, so there’s a chance that the comeback will help to flesh out the universe.

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