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Graphic Novel Review: The Dusk Society, written by Mark Jones, concept by Sidney Williams, illustrated by Naresh Kumar

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Campfire Graphic Novels, which has been publishing adaptations of classic literature such as The Three Musketeers and The Time Machine, illustrated biographies like Harry Houdini and myths like the story of Eros and Psyche, has added a new series of original stories to its catalogue. The Dusk Society, written by Mark Jones (who the Campfire editors like to call the “wordsmith”) based on a concept by Sidney Williams and illustrated by Naresh Kumar, is one of the earliest entries in the new series.

The story focuses on a quartet of teenagers from a small American town who have either some psychic powers or some scientific knowledge or skill. They are recruited by an older woman, Miss Raven, to join a mysterious society that has been formed to fight Pierceblood, a satanic villain with supernatural powers who, using relics stolen from an archeological dig, has created a cabal of some of iconic figures of evil from the past.

In essence The Dusk Society promises to be the first in what looks to be intended as a continuing series. A good deal of the story is background exposition about the creation of the society a bit after World War I and later about how Miss Raven got involved in it, some of which is not explained all that clearly. While there is a modern narrative line about the teenage recruits and a family in their town dealing with an attack by a pterodactyl-like creature, a shape shifter from Filipino legend called an Aswang, even here the story gets a little bogged down in exposition.

Count Dracula, Dr. Frankenstein and his monster make cameo appearances as aides to Pierceblood, but they are little more than window dressing. In effect The Dusk Society sets up as another in the genre of teenagers fighting the forces of evil — think Nancy Drew or Scooby Doo. Although at times the narrative seems a bit clunky, the story does give readers a group of young heroes to identify with.

Illustrations are typical of the Campfire series. Characters are not idealized; they have a gritty quality that exudes realism, but sometimes verges on ugliness. Flashbacks are presented in black and white. Contemporary scenes are brightly colored. While there is certainly some violence, there are only a few illustrations that might be considered gruesome or gory, and even these are not likely to disturb the average adolescent reader.

Like the other volumes in the Campfire catalogue, The Dusk Society follows a rigid formula. It opens with a page depicting each of the major characters. This is followed by the narrative, after which there is an appendix of two pages which gives the young reader some further information about various elements in the story. In this case, the appendix includes material on the curse of Tutankhamun, Dracula, and the Aswang. The information is not intended to be comprehensive, but is probably meant as an invitation to further study.

About Jack Goodstein