Ask anyone who grew up in the late 1960′s to early 70′s about the show Dark Shadows and you’ll probably get variations of the same answer: “I used to run home from school to watch this!” The show, originally aired from 1966-1971, started as more of a traditional soap opera and didn’t make many waves until a year in when the character Barnabas Collins was introduced. Suddenly, Dark Shadows became something unique. Here was a show that had a vampire for a main character! Other Creatures Of The Night included a werewolf, a witch, ghosts and nearly anything else that went bump in the night. The show would also feature a lot of time travel adding to its uniqueness. Its legacy has touched nearly every part of pop culture and is even getting a big budget movie treatment thanks to Tim Burton and Johnny Depp, who’s playing Barnabas!
Now, I know vampires have been watered down due to recent popular culture crazes where they live in swamps and glitter in the sun and people seem to think this is what vampires are all about, so it’s high time one of the all time greats makes his comeback.
Thanks to Dynamite Entertainment, a whole new generation gets to be introduced to Barnabas, the original Reluctant Vampire, who makes his comeback in DARK SHADOWS #1! Written by Stuart Manning with art by Aaron Campbell, this series picks up months after the end of the original television series.
All the players are introduced in a smooth fashion from Dr. Julia Hoffman to young David Collins, Quentin, Roger, Carolyn and Elizabeth Collins Stoddard. Julia is our first focus, she is continuing to try to cure Barnabas of his curse. It seems like forever ago that the witch Angelique cursed him as a vampire for spurning her advances ad she continues to torment him from beyond the veil.
After a quick introduction to our main players we have the settings of our first stories. Barnabas is haunted by nightmares of Angelique and grows frustrated with Dr. Hoffman’s constant failures in curing him. He’s not fed properly in some time and it’s starting to get to him. Carolyn is still hurting from her recent loss, I assume someone she cared for was killed towards the show’s conclusion and she handles it by going to the bar and drinking, hiding from her pain. There is a quick implication that Barnabas might have had something to do with her loss. Something strange happens with Dr. Hoffman near a statue of Angelique and she seems to become possessed by Angelique, which does not bode well for Barnabas!
We end this first issue with two solid teasers: Carolyn, while walking home, meets someone she apparently knows and is attacked! Dr. Hoffman runs into Barnabas who is holding Carolyn’s seemingly lifeless body. Blood on his hands and two small wounds on her neck means it isn’t looking good for Barnabas! The other thing is the appearance of two words, presumably written in blood, over the door of the Collins’ home: She Approaches.
What does all this mean? Did Barnabas lose control and attack Carolyn or is there another blood sucker in Collinsport? I don’t know if Barnabas has ever faced off against another vampire but if there is one and it attacked his family, then perhaps we’ll see the extent of Barnabas’s powers! Also, with the nightmares and the situation at the statue, does ‘She Approaches’ mean one of the most evil witches in history, Angelique, has somehow found a way to return to the land of the living?
So, overall, this was a great relaunching of a cult classic franchise. The art by Aaron Campbell is perfect for the moody tone of this series. You can almost feel the cold air outside the mansion and his depictions of the characters are as near perfect as you can get. I’m hoping he stays on this book for a very long time! Stuart Manning does a great job introducing new fans to the world of Dark Shadows, especially since this series picks up a few months after the TV show ended and there are references to things that had happened in the show. I have to say that there is enough going on here that new fans and readers should have little trouble diving into this world and having a lot of fun.
Having said that, I do think Dynamite should consider ‘liner notes’ of a sort. Perhaps take a page at the end of the comic and give some back story of things that might be helpful in fully understanding this series. It isn’t a big issue, the basics are covered in this first issue and I will be with this book for the long haul, but it would be nice to have a fuller picture of the rich history of this series. This isn’t a complaint, mind you, I completely love this book and it was well worth the wait, this is just a friendly suggestion.
Fans of vampires, especially the more classic take on them, should do themselves a favor and check this out. This is one vampire that won’t glitter in the sun!