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Darkness Calls Anew

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You've already been able to get your dirty little darkling hands on the First Look last month, but this week is when nights are really no longer safe as The Darkness gets a fresh start. The launch of Jackie Estacado's third ongoing series is the final candle on the 10th anniversary bash he got thrown in 2007.

The year started off with a video game release and a mini-series based on the game, but now readers can once again put on their flashlights for a monthly trip through the darkest corners of the Top Cow Universe.

The guides are Phil Hester and Michael Broussard, the former of which spoke to BF about the new Darkness volume.

BROKEN FRONTIER:How does your take on The Darkness fit in with what has come before?

PHIL HESTER: I'm not entirely sure it does. I think Top Cow hired me for the gig because I have an unusual take on the character that's a real departure from typical Darkness tales. We're not engaging in any retconning here, but we are shaking things up quite a bit. In comic book parlance we're attempting a Daredevil: Born Again rather than a Swamp Thing: The Anatomy Lesson, but it's still a reboot of sorts.

BF: Not to discredit Frank Tieri, Ron Marz or David Wohl, but the most defining Darkness stories written up to this day spun from the minds of Garth Ennis and Paul Jenkins. Are you taking any angles and a few bits and pieces from their runs?

PH: Like I said, this isn't a retcon. Jackie's history is completely intact. Every writer you've mentioned has added something to that long history, and while it's my job to sort of stake out new territory, it's impossible to do that without the framework they built. All of those guys are super talented and it would be stupid of me to ignore the really clever takes they had on the book.So, short answer: Yes. I'll be using stuff from past Darkness sagas.

BF: When he took over Witchblade, Ron Marz immediately wowed critics and fans alike with his ‘back-to-basics’ take. Are you planning to reinvigorate Jackie by applying somewhat of the same process—taking in him back to his core?

PH: Not really. Although I agree with your assessment of Ron's Witchblade take, we're going somewhere new with Jackie. He's already been through three or four "back to basics" kind of story lines. I think The Darkness readers are ready for something completely alien and startling. Jackie will still be Jackie and The Darkness will still be The Darkness, but everything else about the book is in play.

BF: I’ve been told you’re planning to be on this book for the long term. Are you plotting this series like, for example, Ed Brubaker plots Captain America—like, there’s no real pause, it’s all part of a continuing whole—or are you opting for story arcs with clear beginnings and endings?

PH: I'm not as smart as Ed, so I'll be going arc by arc. I hope in the end each arc will fit into a larger puzzle, but I love for stories to have distinct endings that give the reader a sense of resolution, then abrupt departures from that status quo at the start of the next arc.

BF: How do you see Jackie? When I asked David Wohl a few months ago how he sees Jackie, he said that the most important factor about Estacado was the fact that even with his life being cursed and all he’s been put through, he would switch places right away. How do you feel about the character?

PH: No way. I'd never trade. He kills people and flirts with girls he can never really be intimate with. That's fine when you're 22, but what now? What's he do all day? Also, he pays a terrible price for his power in the loss of so many people he once cared for. He's cursed. Good looking, but cursed.

I think he longs for a deeper existence and that's something that I'm building the first arc around. He has big dreams, and those come with big risks. Part of the problem with the character comes from the fact that he's so cool. Look, that's the bottom line- he's really cool. He's a dark James Bond and that's all he really needs to be, but Top Cow's been mining that for a long time and I think Darkness readers are ready to see a more human, if not humane, side of Jackie.

BF: In terms of opponents, Jackie has encountered dark cults, the Angelus and plenty of mob people—from spaghetti eaters to the Yakuza.Who’s crossing him this time?

PH: Let's just say the threat is coming from a very intimate source, one Jackie would never suspect, and that the bad guys he encounters will make him look like Captain America by comparison.

BF: Top Cow and Starbreeze have a Darkness video game coming up not too long from now. Have you played it, and if so, did it inspire new stories in turn?

PH: I haven't played it yet, but I've seen lots of screen caps and read the treatment. It looks very cool and it actually did spark some ideas for my second arc.

BF: The Darklings play a very prominent role in the video game, perhaps even more so than they did in past comic volumes. Are you expanding their roles or updating them in any way in your stories?

PH: A little of both. They come and go in the first arc, and some have changed quite a bit. I'd like to think they're getting a little scarier, even for Jackie.

BF: This summer’s First Born crossover is being used as the launching pad for the new ongoing series. How does Jackie come out of the event? Not unscathed, I’m sure…

PH: Ron is leaving Jackie at a point where I can do almost anything with him. He'll be at square one after First Born.

BF: You’re paired on the title with Michael Broussard, an in-house artist and a Top Cow Talent Search winner. As an esteemed artist yourself, what’s it like helping a new penciller get his first break?

PH: Michael doesn't need any help from me. He's going to be huge. He can draw circles around me. To use a baseball analogy- I feel like the crafty, left-handed middle reliever giving pointers to the young, power pitching flame thrower. I write by sketching thumbnails, so it's possible I may have some influence on his storytelling, but that's his to use or leave.

BF: Lastly, how do you incorporate a long-term writing gig like this into a schedule that already includes pencilling The Irredeemable Ant-Man and writing Antoine Sharpe/The Atheist?

PH: You tell me!

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