The Darkness: Levels TPB
Written by Paul Jenkins, David Wohl
Pencils by Eric Basaldua, Tyler Kirkham,
Patrick Blaine, & Mike Choi
Art by Mattias Snygg, Stjepan Sejic,
Rick Basaldua, Sal Regla, Eric Basaldua,
Jay Leisten, Joe Weems, & Sean Parsons
Colors by Rob Schwager, Studio F, Blond,
& Sonia Oback
Letters by Troy Peteri
Top Cow Productions
Cover price: $14.99; On-sale now
When I heard that Top Cow was coming out with a comic book based on a video game based on a comic book, I was, to say the least, skeptical. I was never a big fan of The Darkness comics in the first place, but I am a fan of the video game (see my review here), so I figured it was worth a try. With input from the game’s development studio, Starbreeze, Top Cow has come out with a comic that is a bit of a departure for this long-running series, and one that I can easily recommend.
The Darkness: Levels is a compilation of the six-issue miniseries based on the game. Although each issue ties-in to a level of the game, it is not simply a retelling of the game’s story. In fact, the stories are self-contained enough that they are accessible to anyone, even if you have never read The Darkness or played the video game. However, if you have played the game, Levels explains some of the back story and fleshes out the relationships between the various characters.
The whole series is written by Paul Jenkins, who also wrote the script for the game. Issue #0 is drawn by Mattias Snygg, a concept artist at Starbreeze. His artwork looks painted, although it was most likely created digitally. The style works quite well for the first issue, which tells the story of how the Darkness came to curse the Estacado family. It takes place during a hellish battle in World War I, and Snygg’s artwork evokes the horror and disorientation of war.
Each of the other issues are drawn by different artists from the Top Cow stable. All of the art is quite good, but I particularly like the work of Stjepan Sejic, who pencils Issue #1. Although it is drawn in a very different style, the transition from Snygg’s artwork to Sejic’s is not at all jarring. Sejic really nails the pathos of the emotional scenes between the main character, Jackie Estacado, and his girlfriend, Jenny. This is essential to the story because their relationship is the heart of the game, and Sejic and Jenkins do a wonderful job of exploring the history of this love affair. But don’t mistake his deftness at emotional scenes for weakness in the action department. Sejic has a good eye for panel composition and layout, and he’s not squeamish when it comes to the type of gore that The Darkness is known for.
Although Jackie’s darkling minions had some funny things to say in the game, they are much more talkative in the comic. They also show more personality and less blind subservience than in the game. Their sense of humor and sometimes very funny wardrobe choices add some welcome flavor to the otherwise brutal violence.
Rounding out the compilation is cover art for the monthly issues and concept art for the game. The concept art in particular is exceptional. As a gamer, it’s heartening to see what talented artists are now working in game development. In the hands of such exceptional artists, gaming is poised to really come into its own as an art form.
It’s unfortunate that this compilation didn’t come out before the game. It would have made a great pack-in with a collector’s edition. Reading it first, or, even better, along with the game would have added a great deal of depth to the already complex story. It fleshes out a lot of the back story that is only alluded to in the game, and even fills in some plot holes. The Darkness: Levels is a great example of how to produce quality tie-ins, and it’s an easy book to recommend for Darkness fans and gamers alike.