Sunday, May 10, 2009

Dusk: Prospects are certainly dim

Hey, an actual review!

Dusk, volume 1
Written by David Doub
Art by Maki Naro, Jerry Gonzales, Franc Czuba, and Chris Scott 

I'm generally not one for especially negative reviews, for a variety of reasons, the simplest being that I think I'm better at describing what I liked about something than what I didn't.  I also don't think I'm all that good at being amusing while tearing something down, which might tie in to my aversion to being mean.  So it puts me in a bit of a pickle when I want to talk about something that I didn't especially like, and I'm forced to lean on the crutch of attempted constructive criticism.

Unfortunately, I find all this necessary with this volume, since it's really not very good.  It's obviously a labor of love; creator David Doub is self-publishing the series, and he seems to be working hard to bring it to fruition.  And it's a fairly solid concept, following a normal human vampire hunter through the shadowy world of blood-suckers.  The execution does leave something to be desired, however.  From solely a storytelling perspective, the motivations, backstory, and characterizations are unclear from the beginning, and there's not much in the way of illumination to be had later.  Eve is apparently a vampire hunter working for a good vampire named Ash to hunt down and either kill or capture bad vampires.  They seem to be working for a vampire government of some sort, but the details are vague.  Also, Eve is not a vampire, but she gets super-powers from drinking Ash's blood.  It takes a couple chapters to work all this out, since Doub never stops to explain, at least not satisfactorily.  There's starting a story in media res, and then there's just not sufficiently explaining things.

He does make some attempts at backstory, most notably in the second chapter, which sees Eve flash back to her "origin", which saw her escape from an abusive husband when an evil vampire turned her into a slave.  It's an unfortunate retreat from the action of the first chapter, with little happening on-panel, and over-long captions explaining things in an attempt at flowery language.  A typical example goes like this: "Eve's dream takes her into a memory roughly ten years ago in the present.  A time when she was called Susan Douglas.  This was the last time she saw her husband.  It's also the night she was introduced into the twilight world of the undead by her first vampire master, the malicious and horrific Van Kraken."  Wow, that's clunky, and it doesn't tell us anything that "ten years ago" wouldn't.  

Unfortunately, those first two chapters are the high point of the book, mostly due to the art by Maki Naro.  Naro, while not quite being able to maintain consistent character art, still tries some ambitious layouts and dynamic action, attempting to liven up the script with pages like this one:

It's not always clear what's happening, but I can respect the attempt to do something more than the usual grid.  Unfortunately, the second half of the book takes a dive in quality, especially Jerry Gonzales' art in the third chapter.  It's subpar, webcomic-style, wanna-be manga, aping the most superficial aspects of Japanese comics like large eyes, pointy noses, and speed lines.  The story is no great shakes either, with Eve making a trip to a snowy, mountainous European (?) locale to take down an evil vampire in a well-fortified chateau.  It's all poorly-realized action, with Eve being headstrong and rushing in to danger and her companion, a surly guy who never gets much of a character, backing her up with a rifle.  It's all pretty poorly staged, with unclear panel-to-panel action and even a poor setup, since no information about the bad guy is given and we don't know why we should care about Eve's mission.

Finally, the closing chapter sees Eve hunt down a high school student who has a book of evil spells that he plans to turn on his classmates.  I guess Eve hunts wizards as well as vampires.  The art, by Franc Czuba, is better than the previous chapter, but it's still not very good, with all the female characters being indistinguishable, and bits that should be easily-followed, like a dumb erection joke, taking a few reads to understand what is happening.  I will say, the conclusion to the chapter is unexpected, so it's not a total loss.

Overall, it's not a very good comic, but it does show a bit of potential.  If Doub can stick with Maki Naro as an artist and work on developing his characters and the clarity of his scripts (and also spellcheck his rampant typos), he might have something here.  But I'm sorry to say that this first volume isn't really worth the trouble.

If you're still interested, the book is available for purchase on Amazon, and you can read a good portion of the book at Doub's Comicspace page.