ADVANCED REVIEW: ‘Darkhold Alpha,’ Issue #1

Reading Time: 3 minutes

Darkhold Alpha #1 - But Why Tho

Darkhold Alpha #1 is published by Marvel Comics, written by Steve Orlando, art by Cian Tormey, colors by Jesus Aburtov, and letters by Clayton Cowles. An ancient evil is awakened deep within the Earth that calls out to the Scarlet Witch. But she is not the only sorcerer entangled with the coming storm. For it seems this awakening is not an accident. One has gone searching for it. But will he have the strength to bring this power to heel? Or has he brought doom to the earth?

As someone whose first foray into superhero comics was a pair of issues celebrating the X-Men’s 35th anniversary, the concept that I would not always have the full background information on characters, fueds, or previous encounters was put front and center for me. While this lack of knowledge is rarely a deal-breaker when it comes up, as writers generally are good enough to give readers the minimum required understanding through dialogue and thought boxes, the feeling of that absence of knowledge can certainly land heavier in some stories than others. And while it still isn’t a deal-breaker for Darkhold Alpha #1, I haven’t felt so lost in a superhero comic in a long time.

The central axis that this story revolves around is Dr. Doom unearthing an ancient tome known as the Darkhold. This book was used before the dawn of time to lock away the elder god Chthon. Doom, ever confident in his perceived superiority, plans to claim the god’s power for himself. However, due to her unique connection to Chthon, Scarlet Witch learns of the book’s discovery and sets out to stop Chthon’s return.

The bulk of Darkhold Alpha #1 is focused exclusively on the confrontation between Wanda and Doom. Their shared history, which I was not aware of, colors their discourse heavily. Numerous insinuations are made about their previous time together that left me unsure of exactly what the nature of the referenced interactions had been. Furthermore, this past also seems to be when Wanda first became connected to this elder god Chthon. This was also a new element for me to digest. All these plot points that had been previously unknown to me left me at times feeling out of the loop, but happily, writer Orlando can craft an engaging narrative despite my lack of familiarity with the background material.

Compensating for the background-heavy narrative is a lot of front and center emotional content that helps distract from the details I was lacking. Orlando manages to write both of the story’s main characters skillfully. The intensity of their feelings toward each other and the unfolding situation is never in doubt. The forcefulness of the emotional responses to the unfolding situation helps the reader commit to what is happening, even if they are unclear of all the whys.

The art builds upon this intensity extremely well. Tormey’s lines manage to bring all of the character’s emotions to life. This is especially true for Wanda herself. Throughout the story, Wanda exhibits a wide range of emotions from terror, to confidence, and rage. Tormey delivers each in turn magnificently.

The coloring in Darkhold Alpha #1 adds another layer of vibrancy to the story’s visuals. Aburtov’s colors deliver on all of the various magical effects wonderfully as it utilizes a wide range of vibrant colors for these moments that add to the visual flair of the book.

Rounding out the book’s visual presentation is Cowles’s lettering. The lettering not only provides the story a smooth running clarity with its dialogue placement but also further enhances the magical elements of the book with some wonderfully designed sound effects.

When all is said and done, Darkhold Alpha #1 delivers a strong opening to its narrative, so long as you are either familiar with the legacy story it leans heavily on, or can handle feeling a bit left in the dark where certain narrative details are concerned.

Darkhold Alpha #1 is available on September 29th wherever comics are sold.

Darkhold Alpha #1
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TL;DR

Darkhold Alpha #1 delivers a strong opening to its narrative, so long as you are either familiar with the legacy story it leans heavily on, or can handle feeling a bit left in the dark where certain narrative details are concerned.