The story of Noah’s Ark is a well-known one. God decided to wipe out the sinners of the world and ordered the one righteous man, Noah, to build an Ark. Inside, safe from the raging waters of a worldwide flood, would be Noah, his family, and two of every animal to repopulate the world when the waters eventually receded after 40 days of rain.
The Aftershock series Dark Ark sets up an interesting concept: there was another ark, and on that one, a different man had rescued the world’s monsters. I was curious enough to see how that went and read the first volume, subtitled Forty Nights.
Shrae is a sorcerer who saw his own damnation coming. As such, he cut a deal with an infernal power: keep the world’s monsters and supernatural creatures alive on a separate ark, and he need not fear going to Hell when he dies. As such, his own ark has, beyond his own family, a host of creatures that includes vampires, werewolves, dragons, bugbears, and manticores. There’s also a section full of ordinary humans that seem to have been set aside as food for the monsters.
Naturally, having a bunch of evil-minded creatures that can argue and talk back, trapped on a boat in the middle of a raging storm, puts everyone on edge, including a pair of unicorns that don’t seem to fit in with the others. Shrae has some magical abilities, and it is taking all his skills and iron will to keep all the beasts in line even as a manticore seems to take a liking to one of the prisoners, a rebellion comes along from one of the nastier passengers, and angels can pop in at any moment with their own more God-centered way of thinking. It’s going to be a very long trip for everyone involved.
Now, one of the things I like about Aftershock is that, as a company, they take some real risks. These aren’t traditional superheroes ot the like. It’s not as daring as, say, Image, but the company, which publishes single issues entirely online near as I can make out, lets creators take some risks with passion projects. Likewise, writer Cullen Bunn is an up-and-coming horror writer with a few critically-acclaimed titles of his own. Something like this seems to be right up both Bunn’s and Aftershock’s alley.
So, why didn’t it work for me? Part of it comes down to the artwork. Juan Doe’s work is rather vague-looking, for lack of a better word. Most of the monsters are indistinct blobs in the background, and I had no idea not only how many relatives Shrae had, but who was who. That latter point isn’t limited to Doe’s work. Part of that comes from Bunn’s script which doesn’t really give us too many details on Shrae’s family, like how many kids he has, what their names are, and why Shrae is constantly saying they need to keep his wife in the dark. That last point, I am sure, is something being saved for the future and isn’t necessary right this second, but it might have helped a bit given how little I knew about the main character’s family.
Now, there’s promise here, and I won’t say no to more, but I don’t expect to go back to it any time soon.
7.5 out of 10 unicorn mysteries.