COMIC BOOK REVIEW: DARK ENGINE VOLUME 1 / AUTHOR: RYAN BURTON / ARTIST: JOHN BIVENS / PUBLISHER: IMAGE COMICS / RELEASE DATE: JANUARY 6TH
Newcomers Ryan Burton and John Bivens’ The Art of Destruction is the first compelling volume in the Dark Engine series, collecting issues one through four. Released in January, it looks set to be one of 2015s essential collections.
The story showcases a ravaged future, filled with infected monsters and, desperately looking for a way to undo whatever condemned their world, a group of alchemists create a woman, a killer, named Sym, complete with an engine enabling her to go back in time to stop whatever doomed their world. But the engine is sentient and Sym is powered by a greater force. In the few panels when she’s not hacking and slashing, all primal power and muscle, she’s a tragic character, deserving of sympathy.
The Art of Destruction is engrossing, loaded with great narration and irresistible dialogue. If the great sweeping plot is the book’s greatest strength, then Bivens’ art is never far behind. Part sketch-book, part impressionist and, like fellow Image bedfellows Pretty Deadly, owes a very obvious debt to classic manga. Given the quality of the art, it’s hardly surprising the locales are nothing less than inspiring. Ancient Egypt and Scandinavia are both fully realised, with Sporeland an inventive primeval setting.
At the same time as wearing its influences on its sleeve, the book manages to be a refreshing reminder of the limitless possibilities of the medium. Subtle, poetic, and always the right side of pretension, Dark Engine is a fairytale for our times, with lashings of gore, bare breasts and big concepts in tow.
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