COMIC BOOK REVIEW: TWISTED DARK VOLUMES 4 & 5 / AUTHOR: NEIL GIBSON / ARTIST: VARIOUS / PUBLISHER: T PUBLICATIONS / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW
One of the many joys of Neil Gibson’s Twisted Dark series is the way in which certain characters reappear throughout the volumes, sometimes popping up in unexpected cameos (Yoshi ‘the Pushman’, who had his own story in Volume 1, has a brief but important moment in Volume 5) and sometimes in larger roles that connect all the other episodes they’ve previously appeared in like pieces of a jigsaw puzzle. This not only casts new light on what we’ve read before but also making us want to go back and re-evaluate those earlier stories again, because that fresh piece of information sometimes changes our perspective on everything we thought we knew. It’s a fantastic device, made even more effective by the fact that several different artists work on the series with Gibson and - because they all have very individual graphic styles - one artist’s interpretation of a reoccurring character can be very different from the way that character was drawn by another artist in a previous story. It’s like we’re always looking at the characters in constantly changing visual and narrative perspectives; a technique that not only makes the overarching idea behind Twisted Dark extremely unique (at least in our experience) but also gives each of its stories a fascinating re-readability.
Which isn’t to say that these latest two volumes aren’t without their faults: whereas pretty much all the writing in Volumes 1-3 was uniformly excellent, there are one or two segments in Volumes 4 and 5 that don’t really work and tend to either telegraph their endings too early or take so long to tell that they outstay their welcome (i.e. Yubitsume, the Yakuza story in Volume 5 would have worked a lot better at half the length, and Little Piggy in Volume 4 – although a terrific Tales from the Crypt-type guignol – pretty much ends as soon as the little girl… well, just read it and you’ll find out what I mean.) And because regular readers are now used to looking for the connections between stories, and no doubt have their favourite reoccurring characters (I know we do), when a tale appears that doesn’t quite work it feels like a real bump in the road, a frustrating obstacle we have to clamber over quickly so that we can get back to reading the good stuff.
But having said all that, even Twisted Dark on an off-day is better than most other comic book anthologies on their best days and Volumes 4 and 5 are no exception – this is a refreshingly intelligent, thought-provoking and handsomely drawn collection that remains highly recommended.
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