Review: Darksiders II (Comic)
Title: Darksiders II
Developer: Vigil Games
Publisher: Dark Horse Comics
TL;DR: Action packed if sketchy sub-plot to the game
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Dark Horse Comics have always had excellent taste in publishing: they may not have the Hollywood super heroes, but they always select their titles carefully. With this in mind I approached this Darksiders II comic with more hope than I normally would for one tied in with a game I’ve never had any interest in. Thankfully there’s plenty to enjoy here, most of all the excellent imagining of the Darksiders tri-part universe.
The front cover doesn’t give a whole lot away, but with Death on the scene, we know it’s going to be dark, and it’s going to get murderous. While the writing keeps the plot going nicely and has some witty moments approaching Frank Miller-esque extravagance, the real treat here is the art and colouring from Roger Robinson and Michael Atiyeh respectively. They do an excellent job of bringing this universe to life and the first page is comic book perfection. A bright heavenly scene spread down the page across multiple panels finishing with a dark silhouette of our protagonist. It perfectly compliments the writing which manages to display a new side to Heaven: “Like any city…it has its back alleys”.
That’s one thing about the Darksiders universe I love. It conflates ancient Greek mythology with an interpretation of Christianity alike to Milton’s Paradise Lost: by far the most interesting and elaborate imagining of that story. They manage to give each world, and even the limbos in between the worlds, their own character. Until Lucifer is fully characterised it may be that Hell is rather one-dimensional, but certainly the world of men is reflected in Heaven: some angels have petty motives, and even if their motives are sincere and clean their methods are often debatable. All of this ambiguity is perfectly related in this comic through the interaction between Death and Abaddon (the leader of the angelic army: The Hellguard). Both are intensely reckless in their fighting; especially surprising from an angel.
Death’s motives all lead to an eventual goal of bringing the apocalypse to the world of men, thereby making him a very calm and rational character. This means his tone can be the source of humour: his formality is played against his violent behaviour. I would say that Death, though he has a right to be arrogant, can be a slightly off-putting protagonist. But given that he’s a horseman I suppose we’re not supposed to relate to him, but rather observe him as a superior.
I’m not entirely sure what to think of Death’s art either: he seems very androgynous. This could be read as a hybrid of angel and demon, and as he is not human he is neither man nor woman. But this contradicts the notion that the horsemen consider themselves brothers and sisters, and by their consideration he is male. Overall the dark eyes and clothes make him look death metal, which is appropriate, but certain angles show a more feminine side which is more than a little peculiar.
The demons are merely hinted at early on, making for a dark and uneasy presence, with the art giving us mere glimpses of their power and their goals. It certainly feels like they loom behind every angel, ready to strike, and the art literally paints that picture for us in some panels. However, the demon merchant’s motives seem incomprehensible. Firstly, why is there commerce in the afterlife? Secondly, the quest he sends Death on is an obvious excuse to show something badass, without any real reason for it. My main criticism is the one major gaping chasm in the plot. The Charred Council (who control the horsemen’s actions) haven’t sanctioned Death’s mission to the world of men even though his mission is one which will keep the peace between Heaven and Hell. It doesn’t seem to occur to Death to just ask permission, after all his goal is the primary goal of the Charred Council.
Thankfully we’re quickly distracted by the magnificence of the River Styx in the Edge of Forever (great name for this limbo between the three worlds). It’s one of the best scenes in the comic: from when we first see it as a waterfall with demonic horn-shaped rocks to when we see what lurks beneath the surface; it’s always full of surprises. I love that the souls floating in the river do not fear Death and reach out to him pitifully. After all, what more can Death do to those who are dead?
If you can get past the Charred Council plot-hole I would have to say this comic is worth reading for any Darksiders fan, and anyone who has ever enjoyed stories like Paradise Lost, Dante’s Divine Comedy, or any Greek myths. The piecing together of different lores is beautifully done, and even if you’re not a huge fan of mythology there’s plenty of action here to keep your eyes popping.
- Melding of ancient lores is masterful
- Background art is eye-wateringly delightful
- Plenty of action to keep you turning those pages
- One major plot-hole
- Demon characterisation is sparse
The main issue for kids here is the general themes at play (death and destruction). This comic should be okay for 12 and up. Bear in mind that the Darksiders II game has a PEGI 16 rating so your kid might get passionate about a game they can’t play yet.