Overview

The Darkness: Origins, Volume One

Review

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The Darkness: Origins, Volume One

Credits

  • Words: Garth Ennis
  • Art: Marc Silvestri
  • Colors: Steve Firchow
  • Publisher: Top Cow Productions/Image Comics
  • Price: $12.99
  • Release Date: Mar 24, 2010

The flagship universe of Top Cow Productions has always been a special place in comics fiction, rich with fresh stories of good versus evil, order versus chaos—all accompanied with weird and beautiful images that singe the imagination with their flair. I confess my bias: it wasn’t with Marvel and DC that I first jumped into the medium of comic books, but rather with Top Cow’s Witchblade. I was a fan of the short-lived television series that aired on TNT from the summer of 2002 to 2003, and it didn’t take long for me to seek out the original material that inspired the show.

And, as is to be expected in these matters, the original material was far superior. Every page popped with mythical adventure and rich imagery; my first foray into comics was with the illustrations of the late, great Michael Turner, and he will always be the primary credit of why I admire comics art as much as I do. Writer David Wohl’s scripts never lacked excitement and always pushed the expectations of the archetypal superhero models: where do they come from and why do they do what they do? But it will always be Turner’s artwork that brings Sarah Pezzini and her cosmic gauntlet to life.

That was 10 years ago, and while I always knew there was more to the Witchblade, that it had companion weapons elsewhere in the Top Cow world, I never bothered to explore them. It’s a shame, because after finishing Garth Ennis and Marc Silvestri’s first volume of The Darkness: Origins, I could have had a lot more fun at a much younger age. I can’t imagine any reader of comic books who couldn’t appreciate the work of writer Ennis and artist Silvestri: the adventures of Mob hitman Jackie Estacado as the current inheritor of the Darkness legacy are a demonic romp that anyone can enjoy.

This is already common knowledge for anyone familiar with Top Cow, I’m sure, but the basic premise of The Darkness is worth a brief recap, if only for the sheer fun of it. Jackie Estacado is the protagonist of the story, and he’s someone that lives life to the fullest: he kills a lot of people for his mobster uncle, beds countless beautiful women, wears designer suits, drives fast cars—but despite all of that, he lays off the booze. Even the swankiest of playboys have to draw the line somewhere.

But Jackie’s life forever changes when he turns 21 and the Darkness begins to manifest, an animatistic energy that’s the embodiment of chaos. It’s at this point that Jackie no longer inhabits the land of mortals, but is rather caught up in a ring of supernatural espionage that is either trying to commandeer his power or forever wipe it out.

This is the magic of the Top Cow Universe: the elemental forces of the Darkness, the Angelus, and the Witchblade are some of the most tantalizing facets of fantasy I have ever encountered in a comic book. The writers and artists don’t rely on science fiction formulas or boilerplate religious thrillers to prod along their stories. The forces in Top Cow’s world are pure mysteries: what exactly are they?

I’ve always personally enjoyed the flip question of whether or not we created the gods in our image, or the other way around. I’m willing to gamble that Garth Ennis likes this question, too, what with his reputation on the Preacher series. The themes in The Darkness and the other Top Cow books subtly contemplate this quandary: are our ideas of the gods original, or are they created by even older and far more powerful forces such as the Darkness? Ennis brings his secular willingness to the book, not giving us a rejected fallen angel causing trouble on Earth. What the Darkness truly is as an entity really isn’t explained, and that’s where the excitement grows.

But set aside all of the thrilling supernatural action, and there’s still a tightly woven story here with a colorful cast of worthwhile characters. I’d expect nothing less from Ennis, who is one of the finest comic writers at work today. The image of the Butcher, for instance, is hilariously memorable as he gleefully tries to melt down the corporeal remains of Jackie’s victims in the hitman’s apartment bathroom while Jackie seduces a beauty just outside. Match that with the most tragic event in the hitman’s life: his forbiddance from ever having sex again upon the pain of death. Though, to be fair, I think we’d all be torn up over that.

The magic of the Darkness and his adventures is only half the work of Ennis. Without the stunning artwork of Marc Silvestri, the book would be incomplete. My fond memories of Turner’s Pezzini and her donning of the Witchblade are alive and well in all of the images of Jackie and the Darkness. I love all of it: the gorgeous characters, the sprawling Manhattan cityscapes, and especially the gnashing demons that always accompany Jackie when he transforms. Every illustration has a level of detail that must have been painstaking to accomplish. Painstaking, but worth it.

This initial volume of The Darkness: Origins is a slam-dunk recommendation. Its style, wit, and visual impact make it a true book of comics history in its challenging of the standard superhero formula. Jackie, both in personality and power, is in every way an original antihero. He’s a murdering, womanizing thug who bears within him chaos incarnate. And yet, he’s such an appealing guy. Why is that? Who know—maybe I just have a penchant for bad boys.

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