Sunday, October 24, 2010

The Darkness Compendium Vol. 1 Review

The Darkness Compendium Vol. 1
Image Comics - Top Cow
Softcover Trade Paperback
1280 pages
$59.99 ($99.99 hardcover edition)
ISBN 9781582406435

Contributors: Marc Silvestri, Garth Ennis, Paul Jenkins, Joe Benitez, Dale Keown, Michael Turner, David Finch, Billy Tan, Whilce Portacio, David Wohl, Malachy Coney, Randy Queen, Matt "Batt" Banning, Brian Haberlin, Steve Firchow, Dennis Heisler, Cedric Nocon, Richard Isanove, Stephen Platt, Christina Z, Clarence Lansang, Joe Weems, Jonathan Livesay, Ken Lashley, Scott Lobdell, Keu Cha, Brian Ching, Clayton Crain, Mark Pajarillo, Brett Booth, Sal Regla, and Mark Texeira

Reprints: The Darkness (1996) Prelude, #1/2, 1-40 (of 40); Tales of the Darkness #1/2, 1-4 (of 4); The Darkness: Wanted Dead; The Darkness/Witchblade #1/2; The Darkness (2002) #1

Synopsis: Jackie Estacado is your typical hot-blooded mob hitman - he's made, good at his job, drives the flashy cars, and beds a different woman every night.  His childhood friend, Jenny tends bar at an upscale club, but secretly harbors feelings for him.  On his 21st birthday, Jackie inherits the Darkness power, an elemental force of evil and granting the bearer near-limitless power in the shadows. 

The power comes at a price as Jackie discovers he will drop dead the instant he impregnates a woman and the offspring will similarly be granted the power when they come of age.  Many groups and individuals are interested in Jackie for their own reasons: the Angelus is the exact opposite of the Darkness and seeks his destruction, the Witchblade is a cross between both forces, the Vatican sends their enforcer the Magdalena to eradicate the Darkness, the Brotherhood of Darkness led by Sonatine wish to control the Darkness bearer, and Jackie's Uncle Frankie is disgusted by his nephew's strange power, but can't help exploiting it.  Only one person has been a constant and means something in Jackie's life, but can he keep Jenny safe amid the insanity that rules the Darkness?
Pros: Beautifully dark art by some of the best artists in the field, great colors, more bang for your buck with the entire first series + peripheral Tales, high-quality paper (makes it heavy!), great extras including all the variant covers and pinups

Cons: Massive 'phonebook' style trade paperbacks suffer from being too heavy and fragile to read - mine quickly developed curling on the cover and a crack down the middle, Witchblade crossover issues are not included

Mike Tells It Straight: I love these compendium (omnibus) editions, but if you're going to buy one then splurge on the hardcover edition.  The paperbacks are too big and heavy for their own good.  My copy almost broke in half while I was reading it - a small spine split which became progressively worse until pages began to detach themselves.

This book is more about the pretty pictures and action than plot despite the involvement of Garth Ennis.  He writes the first arc, but then ghosts and we get a revolving door of new creative teams.  Frequent writer and artist changes cause the story to become convoluted and unfocused.  All the characters are shallow and extremely single-note, but the pictures are pretty, oh so pretty. 

TO BUY and Recommendations: