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Comic Book Review: The Darkness/Darkchylde: Kingdom of Pain by Randy Queen

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The two monster makers Jackie Estacado, bearer of The Darkness, and Ariel Chylde meet in this Top Cow one-shot from Randy Queen. It was originally scheduled to come out back in December of 2009, but the highly anticipated one-shot had been delayed until now. Question is:  is it worth the wait?

The one-shot sees the return of Darkchylde after an eight year hiatus and the first artist, Queen, outside of Marc Silvestri drawing The Darkness since the character was first designed ten years ago. That alone will please fans of both characters, but some great dialogue and artwork really make this one-shot an enjoyable read.

Jackie Estacado, wielder of The Darkness, intercepts a psychic plea for help from Ariel. He uses his Darkness power to free Ariel from a self-imposed seven year exile. In doing so he agrees to help her in defeating a force potentially stronger and more dangerous than the two of them, as it can create anything it desires, unlike Ariel who can only create the monsters from her nightmares and Jackie who can create monsters out of Darkness. The battle takes place in the Kingdom of Pain where it rains blood.

It was certainly an interesting story, and I appreciate that they took some time, about half the issue, to develop it even though it's a one-shot. Fans of both characters will probably understand and appreciate the story more as certain characters and events are eluded to but not fully explained. Newbies may find themselves a little confused at times, like I was. I did appreciate the fact that the narration was split fairly evenly between the two main characters, although Ariel Chylde is the driving force of this comic. Also, the story seemed to end all of a sudden; you found yourself really getting into it, and then, BAM, it's all done. I know it's a one-shot, but it had me wanting more, especially with that thoughtful ending. 

The dialogue Queen has created between Jackie and the little girl Miss Happy is just fantastic. They engage in some great back and forth in a bid to find out who each other is and what they want. It seems very natural, has some dry humor, and it really sucks you into the story. Like Jackie, you find yourself willing to go anywhere with the story. His dialogue with Ariel was still fun and interesting, but not as good as with Miss Happy.

At its heart this is a story about monsters, and, boy, are they impressive. Jackie, in his nightmare influenced Darkness armor, reminds me of a Yuuzhan Vong from Star Wars, except he has a kick-ass sword and can make monsters appear out of nowhere — freaking sweet. Also when you see Ariel transform into one of her nightmares, it's both cool and a little bit disgusting, the perfect mix for a story about monsters. There was the occasional page which had a touch too much writing in it, but this was evened out by plenty of pages devoted solely to Queen's artwork, like the reveal of Queen's Darkness Jackie in stunning detail. At one stage Jackie remarks, "…it's absolutely stunning," and that's definitely true with this one-shot. You really get the sense that this is a place for monsters and nightmares via Queen's oddly gorgeous artwork. Everything is just so detailed and well designed.

Overall this was a thoroughly enjoyable one-shot. It has some truly gorgeous artwork and rather twisted monsters, which is what you'd expect in a place called the Kingdom of Pain and populated by nightmares. The story was interesting, with some good dialogue, but fans of both characters will enjoy it more than the average comic book fan who may not know all the back story.

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