"Twisted Dark: Volume 4" Trade Paperback Review
Written by James Ferguson
Published by T Publications
Written by Neil Gibson
Illustrated by Jake Elphick, Leonardo Gonzalez, Caspar Wijngaard, Jim Terry, Seb Antoniou, Atula Siriwardane, Erol Debris, and Novian Rivai
2013, 160 Pages
Author Neil Gibson is back with another volume of Twisted Dark. Collecting nine new stories, this graphic novel makes the connections in the series a bit clearer. Those lines were very vague with the first volume, but if you've read through all of them, you'll notice links that allow some to flow through one another. That's not to say that you need to have read each of the three previous books in order to understand this one (although you should because they're quite good). Each tale seen here can stand on its own, however you'll find a bit more enjoyment if you see how it works within the overall Twisted Dark universe.
What immediately jumps out for Twisted Dark: Volume 1 is the twist endings. Gibson has a way of taking stories in sudden unexpected turns that can knock the wind out of you. In the foreward of this book, he points out that not every story has to have such a conclusion as long as the plot itself is twisted. That's understandable, but after seeing such great endings right off the bat, I can see why people were disappointed when a story didn't pack that punch. I was definitely in that group with the second volume.
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Fortunately, the stories in Twisted Dark: Volume 4 do include some great twists. One such tale is Punishment which has what could be the absolutely worst consequence for a crime I've seen. It's not death or torture, but it would cause someone to have to just disappear from society for fear of being attacked whenever he's seen in public. It's a genius setup that is a little overboard, but very fulfilling to see. It's not a rapist getting castrated or something like that.
Speaking of people getting what they deserve, there are two stories that follow a young man out for revenge. After being sexually abused as a child in a Catholic school, a man is looking to punish the people he holds responsible for his haunted youth. It starts out with a bit of justifiable torture porn in Blame Game, but the second story, Blame Shame, helps humanize the man and takes a very interesting turn when something unexpected enters his plans. Both tales are illustrated with a very fine line style by Atula Siriwardane. As with all of the Twisted Dark volumes, this is presented in black and white. Siriwardane uses the shadows to show just how alone these characters are as one is leading the other down a very painful path towards death. There's no hope here.
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Story of Wolves felt rather out of place in the comic. It has a narration about how a pack of wolves acts around an alpha male. There's nothing that's particularly scary or twisted about this story. Later on in the book, Gibson provides part two to the story with the same narration but juxtaposed over a mob boss instead. That helps it make more sense, but it might have worked a bit better if the images of the wolves were with the mobsters instead of separated by a couple of other stories. Plus, Gibson points out the complete falsehood about the alpha male concept with the introduction to part two, so it takes the story down a peg.
The story that stands out by far is the final one, entitled Little Piggy. It follows a slow young man named Spencer who begins working for his father at the killing station at the family slaughterhouse. The ending for this tale is one that creeps up on you. The moment you realize what's going to happen, it's too late. You can do nothing but watch as the pieces fall in place. It's heartbreaking, yet made of such great drama. If anyone was curious as to what Twisted Dark is, this is the story to read. Artist Jim Terry delivers some dynamite work as well. You can see right away that Spencer doesn't have a mean bone in his body. Terry gives him this wonderfully innocent look. All of this is said through the expressions for each character, as if you've known them forever.
Twisted Dark: Volume 4 is the kind of comic that makes you want to pick up everything that came before it and re-read them all over again to see all the connections. The writing is solid and when looked at as a whole, it's an impressive feat. The artwork has improved with each volume as well, so I'm excited to see what's in store for the next graphic novel. Regardless of when that one drops, I know that Little Piggy is going to be sticking with me for some time.