Category Archives: Spawn

Image Comics: Embrace The Darkness

Ben’s Grim Corner By: Benjamin Cook.

Embrace the Darkness

Embrace the Darkness 

Fantastic Four.

The Avengers.

Batman.

The Green Lantern.

The list goes on.

In the world of comics, there is a small continent that has remained obscured from sight, kept beneath a fog of silence and secrets – and that’s just how the big boys like it.

Things are changing. The landscape of the graphic novel has drastically altered in the past two decades.

The shadows are longer, the blades sharper, the gore … well, gorier. And as the times change, so too do the leaders of the industry.

Make no mistake, Marvel and DC are holding strong – new incarnations of the old favourites are being introduced to us as we speak. M Day changed the face of mutantkind a decade ago, and the X-Men are still feeling the repercussions of the Scarlet Witch’s terrible decision as they fight for the very survival of Homo Superior. The Avengers will never be the same after constant infighting: amongst themselves in Civil War; against their usurpers in Dark Reign; even against the ever-embattled X-Men in the recent AVX story arc.

DC, for their part, have refabricated the weekly comic with a younger, fresher, tougher Justice League in the New 52. But these developments, though impressive to read, are merely re-inventions of the same wheel they’ve been rolling since Lee and Kirby gave it the first shove sixty years past.

As I said in the beginning of this little rant, there’s more to this world of graphic literature than just the two superpowers (no pun intended). In fact, there has been a third party for over twenty years now, and despite what the bigwigs would let you think, they’ve been keeping up pretty well for most of that time.

This trove of hidden gems is known as Image Comics.

As always, there are a few speedbumps on the way to success, and the underdog always hits them the hardest. They took a few steps back in recent years, licking wounds and preparing for the next step, but with a team like theirs, success was only a matter of time and tenacity. Now they’re ready to take their rightful place right next to their two older brothers.

You might not know about Image personally, but I’m sure you know their work. They have their own TV show. Maybe you’ve heard of it –

Image gave us this.

Image gave us this.

it’s called the Walking Dead. A few years before that, they had a movie for a guy named Spawn – not that it was good, but it had its share of impressive moments (John Leguizamo stole the show as Clown, if you ask me). And then there’s others, like Witchblade and Savage Dragon, who have not only carried a solid fan base for many years, but have even had their own cartoons (FYI: from someone who is lukewarm about his anime, I heartily recommend the Witchblade series).

Let’s put those old victories aside for a moment. For when it comes to re-invention, Image doesn’t screw around. They’re not just kicking the same wheel down the road, they scrapped the whole thing and went back to formula – and, as a man who is steadily becoming more jaded in his advancing years, it’s nice to see something new on the shelves.

The list of new franchises that Image has taken a hold of in recent months is quite the monolith, but out of appreciation for the team that gave Master Marvel and Duke DC the middle finger of justice in 1992 (I’ll explain why next week, I promise), I’ll leave those for another day. Instead, I’ll begin with one of their first successes – and one of my top three favourite comic series.

I am referring, of course, to: The Darkness.

darknessI won’t go into extensive detail with this one, since I’ve spent so much time with my bloody introduction, but frankly I’d rather leave it to you to form your own opinion. All I’ll do for you is give you a quick synopsis:

Enter Jackie Estacado, adopted son of Don Francis Franchetti. The Franchetti family is – you guessed it – a mafia crime family, and Jackie is their number one killer. He smokes the finest cigars, drives a Lamborghini, and drinks – milk? Ah, whatever, at least he’s not a total cliché.

Issue #1 opens on a very special day: Jackie’s 21st birthday. Why is this day special, you ask? Because the 21st birthday of an Estacado is the day they inherit their legacy. The Estacado legacy is not wealth, or fame, or some collection of old sweater buttons from the 17th Century. No, the Estacado legacy is a force born in the first days of creation. For reasons unbeknownst to us puny mortal things, this force, known as the Darkness (which is exactly what it sounds like), chose the Estacado bloodline millenia ago to carry its seed of discord, chaos and ruin through the ages, hoping one day to obliterate all of existence through its mortal vessel.

Ah, but there’s a bit of a snag – there’s another force that is antithesis to the Darkness. It calls itself the Angelus, and it is, put simply, the force of Light. Strangely, the Angelus also wants to destroy all of existence – just in a blaze of glory instead of a vacuum of nothingness – which, Jackie soon discovers, is a really shitty argument to get in the middle of.

That’s all I’ll tell you for now. My hope here is not to impress you with knowledge from the arcane outskirts of comicland, nor is it to argue a point (there’ll be plenty of time for that later, I’m sure). My primary purpose here is to pique your curiosity, as mine was years ago when I beheld the grisly, shadowy creatures on the cover of my first Darkness comic. If you find yourself leaning forward, eyebrow quirked in anticipation, then I consider my task complete – and I look forward to revealing more of the hidden continent of graphic wonder that is Image Comics.

Embrace the Darkness, my friends.

See you next week.

-Benjammin’

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