Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Twisted Dark TPB - Volume Five

The next installment in Neil Gibson's series of graphic novels, Twisted Dark, continues his tradition of short stories that not only interconnect in various ways, but also bring to light the darker side of humanity, both in good ways and in bad ways.  The first four volumes in this series have introduced a number of characters that have appeared here and there in scattered stories throughout the four graphic novels, and several of them return in this volume for readers to learn even more about them and the events that shaped them into the people they become.

I normally do not like the rotating artists that a lot of DC and Marvel titles have, as every artist has a tendency to draw the characters differently (sometimes very drastically), and so it detracts from the reading enjoyment of the story. For Twisted Dark, however, Gibson's decision to utilize different artists for each of his short stories works wonderfully. He manages to select artists that can perfectly portray the mood of the story, and thus, it adds a flavor of emotion and horror to each of the stories that otherwise would not be there if only one artist were to draw all of the stories.

"Embarrassment" and "Sunflowers" tell the story of Mark and his coming out - and how that affects his family and friends - including his first crush, his father, and ultimately, his mother (and even how it affects Mark himself). This one was probably the most touching for me, as it so brutally hits the mark (no pun intended) on the broken families that so many young men and women face when they come out to their families.

"Preparation" and "Interview" and "Art" tell the story of El Nudillo and Liam Chapman - the first from El Nudillo's point of view, the second from Liam Chapman's point of view, and the third from an omniscient point of view. By taking three different perspectives of this continuing story, the reader sees the warped psyches of each of the characters and sees how the depravity of one feeds off the other.

"Duty" and "Yubitsume" were only so-so tales - the first about a father-in-law's warning to his son-in-law about the duty he has to his wife and what will happen if he shirks it again, while the second deals with just how far two people will go to prove their love to one another.  I wouldn't call either story very "dark" per se, but they definitely made some valid points.

But, by far, my favorite tale from this volume was "The Secret War" (not to be confused with nor in any way connected with the various Marvel Comics series by the same name). This story delves into the truly twisted logic of some minds - how one woman, whose husband, and later son, were taken from her due to the government's repeated bombings of foreign soil. So she sets out to teach people how to defuse the remaining bombs and incendiaries that were left behind, un-triggered, so as to avoid any horrible accidents. However, her class field trips to the very area where the bombs remain turn into a horror story of accidents, mishaps, and lost limbs - all so she can use the horrific photos as a means to spark special interest stories in the situation and raise funds to put an end to it. How often in real life do people and corporations use the misfortune and losses of others to further their own goals?

Gibson admits in the introduction to this volume that even he has a difficult time keeping track of the characters from his various stories, and yet his fans are able to track them and repeat them to him in a clear and concise timeline.  Yet, from my reading of these first five volumes, he has flawlessly weaved these stories into one another, some subtly and some blatantly, all the while making each short tale a stand-alone story that will make the reader think.

This series is not for the casual reader, is definitely not for kids, and is not for anyone who simply wants a fun story to read - be warned: these graphic novels will make you stop and think!

7 Darth Vader helmets out of 10 for not being afraid to tell some extremely dark tales about our society and, yet, make them engaging to read.

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