Are You Afraid of Darkseid #1 review

It’s October, which means another giant anthology of, hopefully, spooky tales from DC Comics. The cover doesn’t auger well – if not for the title, I doubt I’d recognise that stumpy grey thing as Darkseid – he’s more like Blok of the Legion – while the Teen Titans figures look like they’ve stumbled into the DCU from a kids’ picture book. Artist Dan Hipp was art director for the Teen Titans Go! TV show, so a huge talent, and I’d likely enjoy his work in that style a lot more. I do like the logo by Darran Robinson, and his original campfire back page illo.

Framing sequence ‘Are You Afraid of Darkseid?’’ features Robin, Red Arrow, Roundhouse, Crush and Kid Flash telling campfire tales, and it’s a great way to introduce the issue’s one-off stories. Artist Mike Norton always delivers, while new-name-to-me Elliott Kalan proves rather witty. As for the stories…

Darkseid himself teams up with Harley Quinn when Bloody Mary hits Gotham in an amusing entry with a terrific ending. This is the second Darkseid story from Kenny Porter that I’ve enjoyed, where will he have Ol’ Red Eyes pop up next? Max Dunbar’s art is effective, extra points for an excellent building exterior!

For me, motor vehicle chases don’t work in comics, as demonstrated once more in a story with Batman being diverted from chasing Mad Hatter by a mysterious truck. It’s Duel with a ghost, but I’d rather have had more Hatter. I expect other people will enjoy this tale by Calvin Kasulke and Rob Guillory more than me, look at how popular road racer Ghost Rider is…

Green Lantern John Stewart visits a haunted house in space courtesy of Dave Wielgosz, Pablo M Collar and friends. Emphasising John’s original comic book past as an architect rather than the more recent tacked-on marine bit quickly had me well disposed towards this short. And I wasn’t disappointed, as Wielgosz emphasises John’s smarts and compassion and Collar gives us memorable images.

The most impressive art in the issue comes from illustrator Jesús Hárvas and colourist Eva De La Cruz, a series of single page splashes moving across time and space. Unfortunately, I gave up on Collin Kelly and Jackson Landing’s story four pages in… hang on, let’s have a third try. OK, I managed it. The Phantom Stranger is leading people up a spectral staircase, occasionally yelling random words like that guy you avoid in the park. One of his charges is the last dodo, another Joe Chill, a third… some comic artist. It’s all pretty words and pretty opaque. Did anyone understand this?

Famed Canadian lake monster the Ogopogo turns up in an Aquaman and Aqualad tale, but why has it suddenly started lashing out? Why does any monster ever lash out? Ed Brisson’s story could be eerier but has some powerful moments, and while I rather like Christopher Mitten’s art, his Aquaman is weird, forever looking off panel in a haunted way.

Vixen and Wonder Woman team up to investigate strangeness in Mari’s homeland. While the atmosphere is spookier than in any other story, Terry Blas makes the moments of humour work and illustrator Garry Brown’s naturalist style makes the menace feel real. There’s even an effective jump-scare. Plus, Marissa Louise’s muted tones are superb, providing the necessary night-time vibe.

The final story features Superman and Lois, missing children and a cellar… don’t go into the cellar, Clark! Of course, he does, in an effective chiller by writer Jeremy Haun and artists Tony Akins and Moritat. Just look at the way Moritat – doing colours as well as inks – makes that costume pop. I think I’d enjoy a whole road trip series by this team!

As usual, then, this anthology is a mixed bag – some brilliant work, but mostly just decent stuff. If our talented editors Katie Kubert, Andrew Marino and Michael McAlister are reading this (you never know!) I’d suggest that next year they commission a writer with experience of horror and heroes to write a book-length thriller with different artists on separate chapters – certainly including the likes of Akins & Moritat, Garry Brown and Jesús Hárvas. That could really be something.

Meanwhile, Happy Hallowe’en!

4 thoughts on “Are You Afraid of Darkseid #1 review

  1. I gave up an skimmed at the start of the Phantom Stranger story, stopping for the Clark and Lois tale. I think I may have enjoyed this idea of an anthology better had the Not Ready For Prime Time Players been paired with seasoned pros and half of these story ideas never seen the light of day.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Looking up some of the names in there, as well as the TV chap I find a comedic podcaster, a webcomics chap, ‘a surprisingly tall transsexual’… I did enjoy a fair amount of the issue, but it’s a shame DC can’t also find room for long-serving comic professionals. It would certainly up the hit rate.

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  2. I wish I understood what was going on in the Phantom Stranger story… it seems like there is a cool little story idea in there. But for the life of me, I couldn’t get it. Points for trying something interesting, though.

    Liked by 1 person

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