"Twisted Dark: Volume One" Trade Paperback Review
Written by James Ferguson
Published by T Publications
Written by Neil Gibson
Illustrated by Jan Wijngaard, Atula Siriwardane, Ant Mercer and Casper Wijngaard
2011, 199 Pages
Trade Paperback published in June 2011
Have you ever watched some feel-good movie on Lifetime or the Hallmark Channel and thought "This would be so much better if it was a horror movie."? Somehow I think author Neil Gibson has those kind of thoughts, although I don't think he'd be caught dead watching anything on either of those networks. Gibson has written a collection of short comics collected in Twisted Dark: Volume One.
Each story starts out as a very run-of-the-mill tale about relatively normal people, but then takes a turn into a very dark place. It's the literary equivalent of getting punched in the gut. I write that as a compliment. Gibson comes out of the blue with some of these twists and they caught me completely by surprise. As I continued through the book, I found myself attempting to guess which direction the comics would go. I was rarely correct, but I was even more rarely disappointed.
Gibson is helped by a variety of artists throughout Twisted Dark. Each story is presented in black and white, but that doesn't hurt them at all. The art itself is somewhat of a mixed bag. There's the rigid and slightly unfinished look of Jan Wijngaard in Windopayne, but the subtle and dark artwork from Atula Siriwardane in Blame. Ant Mercer's work in The Game was particularly good. It reminded me of some old-school comics too. Caspar Wijngaard's pencils in Routine made a great use of the black and white. Instead of letting it limit him, he used it to his advantage, especially when the story takes its dark turn.
There are twelve stories collected in this volume. The aforementioned Routine is one of my favorites, and definitely the one that stuck with me the longest. It follows a single father who's had some rough times with his son, but clearly still loves him very much. He's worried after his son goes out hunting in the woods with his dog and doesn't come back during his normal time. I'm not going into too much detail, but that gut punch I was talking about earlier is delivered in full force with this story.
The paranoid reality show idea of The Game is a great idea that I've come back to a couple of times now to try to decide which of the characters is actually telling the truth. Blame is a quick and blood-thirsty take on revenge. And The Pushman is darkly humorous and just a little sad when it comes down to it. I'm going to stop this now or else I'll be going through all of the comics and telling you why they're all worth reading.
Neil Gibson has a talent for writing very touching, heart-warming stories...and then turning them completely upside down to make them absolutely terrifying. Twisted Dark: Volume One collects a dozen short comics that definitely live up to the title. Gibson hints in the afterward that the stories will slowly start to connect. That's not very clear from my first read through of the book, but I definitely want to find out more.