REVIEW: ‘The Complete Darkness,’ Volume 1

Reading Time: 3 minutes

The Complete Darkness Volume 1 - But Why Tho?The Complete Darkness Volume 1 collects The Darkness #1-18, Tales of the Darkness #1-4The Darkness: Prelude #1, and Witchblade #10, #18, and #19. It is published by Top Cow Productions, a partner studio of Image Comics. On his 21st birthday, mob enforcer Jackie Estacado learns that he has inherited the ancient force known as the Darkness from his father. The Darkness allows Jackie to manipulate shadows and even create other creatures, but it has also painted a massive target on his back. Jackie learns to master the power of the Darkness while battling the light-powered Angelus and dealing with the Brotherhood of the Darkness, a cult that believes Jackie is the key to remaking the world.

The Darkness was created by Garth Ennis (the co-creator of The Boys) alongside Top Cow founder Marc Silvestri and David Wohl. Much like The Boys, this collection is packed to the brim with violent moments courtesy of Ennis and co-writer Malachy Coney. Heads get ripped off, bodies are riddled with bullets, and there’s a Breaking Bad-esque scene involving a bathtub and acid. Jackie himself happens to be a departure from the typical antihero in comics, as he wasn’t exactly a good person before gaining the power of the Darkness. And he still isn’t after, either. He’s only out for himself and will kill anyone who gets in his way. It’s a radical departure from antiheroes such as Wolverine or even Spawn, who at least strived to achieve nobility. Similarly, the Angelus, while representing the light and designed to look like an actual angel- s not that noble either.

The overarching plot finds Jackie learning to master his Darkness powers, all the while dealing with the dual forces of the Angelus and the Brotherhood of the Darkness’ Machiavellian leader Sonatine, who kidnaps Jackie’s childhood friend Jenny. I feel that the first six issues are probably the best part of the collection, as they tell Jackie’s origin story and manage to make it a compelling read. Otherwise, the rest of the book reads like a stereotypical 90s comic full of hyper-violence and titillation that I’d advise only hardcore collectors to check out.

Ennis and Malachy, as well as writers Christina Z and Wohl, do a great job of setting up the Darkness and its mythology. While the Darkness is a virtually immeasurable force of ancient power, it has its drawbacks. Jackie can’t access the Darkness unless shadows are around, and he will die once he conceives a child. Yes, the protagonist of the book could die if he has sex. Jackie also has control over a group of goblin-like beings called Darklings who add a humorous element to the book. They swear like sailors, know how to use guns, and refer to Jackie as “The Boss.” In short, they’re a delight.

The real standout of the book is Silvestri on art. Silvestri has remained my favorite comic book artist, and even back then his work had a unique flair to it. Jackie’s Darkness armor looks alien and terrifying in its design, with jagged blades coming out of the back and a faceplate with a blank expression. The Angelus also look alien in design, with certain warriors wearing gold and black armors and others looking like Victoria Secret’s models with glowing eyes and spears. Also joining Silvestri on art duties is the late Michael Turner, who illustrates Jackie’s first apperance in Witchblade #10, hinting at their future connection, Jackie’s armor bears a similar design to Witchblade bearer Sara Pezzini’s.

The Complete Darkness Volume 1 embodies the highs and the lows of comics in the 90s, as it features eye-grabbing artwork and a unique concept yet feels bogged down by the chance to prove its maturity. Fans of Top Cow’s output, particularly Witchblade, will want to add it to their collection.

The Complete Darkness Volume 1 is available wherever comics are sold and through Comixology using our affiliate link.

The Complete Darkness Volume 1
3.5

TL;DR

The Complete Darkness Volume 1 embodies the highs and the lows of comics in the 90s, as it features eye-grabbing artwork and a unique concept yet feels bogged down by the chance to prove its maturity. Fans of Top Cow’s output, particularly Witchblade, will want to add it to their collection.