You Promised Me Darkness #1 (Behemoth Comics, $3.99) starts with a story by Sage, a character known only through narration at the outset, who tells a story of a brother and sister.
The brother is a victim of a boogeyman–a dark force within himself–that liked to burn things. The way that boogeyman manifested was a pyroclastic explosion of fire, igniting objects in a close radius. The sister, as the book title mentions, promises him darkness and a way to keep that fire from coming back and hurting himself and others.
If that sounds familiar–perhaps as in superheroes or mutants–well, you’re getting warm. Sage, the narrator, is the next person we see, and he tells a tale of superhero-like ‘children of the comet’ that first appeared in 1910, creating characters with special abilities, many of which are dark and troubling.
A constant question I came up against in this review was ‘is this a horror book or a superhero book?’ The answer to me is “neither and both,” as there are elements of superheroes–specifically of the aughts-decade television show Heroes–balanced with elements of horror. The race of super-beings “were obviously persecuted, abducted, manipulated, analyzed, dissected and subjected to all sorts of atrocities,” Sage says. Those are not words from a superhero tale.
There’s a lot to like in the first issue. The villain, a (speaking of Heroes) Sylar-like character discovered his powers during a satanic sacrifice. He hunts super-powered children of the comet to kill them so he can consume their powers. His next target? The brother in Sage’s introductory tale. There are also fun horror elements. I don’t want to spoil too much of the story so I’ll mention the group of mind-controlled assassins as my favorite.
Depending on taste, the art will be either a help or a hindrance. It’s minimal and raw–black on white, with no gray tones. At its best, it conveys raw creepiness, such as a full-page shot of a gas mask and the setup/fight that dominates the latter half of the issue. At its worst, it gets overly dark, muddy and confusing–especially when textured backgrounds are involved–with panels that sometimes appear like zine pages that have been photocopied over one too many generations.
While I enjoyed most of the writing, an element of it didn’t work for me: a present narrator (Sage) seemed unnecessary, especially given the character’s dialogue quirks of ‘Yikes’ and the use of teenage-sounding speech mannerisms.
That said, the strong points of the story (the plot, the premise of the villain and the key brother and sister characters) win out. The art also works for me and tips the scales in favor of horror. Characters are minimalist and creepy and items like floating eyeballs show up more ominous on the page. It harkens back to early indie work by Brian Michael Bendis and other creators who used pure black and white a la Sin City to deliver their stories in the 1990s.
Most important, in reaching the end of You Promised Me Darkness #1, I was eager to get to issue 2. You Promised Me Darkness wields an interesting premise and promising plot lines. Superhero, horror, a combination of both, this is a story with enough creepy elements and intrigue to keep readers satisfied.
For more comics reviews check out Something is Killing the Children.