If you missed out on the first issue of A Voice in the Dark by writer/artist Larime Taylor, here's what you need to know: Zoey is a troubled 18 year old girl with the urge to kill, an urge she's acted on before (about three months ago, in fact). She recently started college away from home in a town called Cutter's Circle, CA, where she met some new people and landed a gig (while fantasizing about strangling her new boss) hosting a radio call-in show on campus station KILL FM, where callers are encouraged to share their dark secrets anonymously. Zoey no doubt hopes the show will help her focus her urges, but that's not going to work out as planned.
Issue #2 picks up where the cliffhanger from #1 left off, with a suicidal caller identifying herself as "Heather" on the line. The story unfolds in layers, as Heather reveals she's both a victimizer, torturing a socially awkward classmate, and a victim herself. I won't spoil any more than that, but suffice to say that Heather's story illustrates just how fucked up a place Cutter's Circle is, as if the dead cheerleader nailed to a tree last issue didn't do that already. The phone call itself serves as narration, giving us insight into both Zoey and Heather. It's an interesting technique that adds to the story and allows Taylor to squeeze in a lot of exposition in naturally. The story is bookended by a conversation between Zoey and her Uncle Zeke, a homicide detective, discussing the events that transpired on the call.
While I enjoyed seeing Zoey try to find comfort with her uncle, a character she obviously has a strong relationship with, but, for obvious reasons, can't fully open up to, I do wish that I (and new readers picking the book up) got the chance to see more of the books' supporting cast that were introduced last issue. What I really like about A Voice in the Dark is the diversity of the characters. Taylor, in his writing and his art, depicts real, flawed characters in all shapes and flavors. Those skills at characterization are still present in this issue, and I also appreciated the fact that the issue offers a self-contained story. That, along with the fact that the first issue was double-sized, incorporating two of the original Kickstarter issues in one and getting all the origins and setup out of the way, makes this issue a great place to jump right into Zoey's world.
Despite her murderous tendencies, Zoey is a likable character who you can easily identify with. She's suffered, as have most of the characters in A Voice in the Dark in one way or another, and really, who hasn't fantasized about stabbing an annoying classmate or work colleague in the head with a pencil? The point is, you or I could easily be Zoey, and her friends and family could be our friends and family. Taylor has a gift for creating characters and making you care about them despite their flaws, and this issue, with its one and done story focusing on "Heather," shows off that talent. At first, you'll find Heather despicable, then you'll feel sorry for her, and by the end you'll find her actions shocking while still feeling sympathy for her.
Taylor's art, in black and white with grayscale tones, is sparse in its crisp, clean lines. Every page has a background, even if it's just a curtain or a radio console, but it's never distracting or overly rendered. The art excels both in the previously mentioned diversity of characters and also in Taylor's depiction of human emotion, which, by nature of the story, happens to often be of the pained or sad variety. This isn't a sexy superhero book, nor is it particularly action oriented. It's a drama about realistic people with problems, and the style is perfect for that. The blood spattered backgrounds are a nice touch that set the tone for what's always going on in Zoey's mind, and I can already see Taylor's art gaining confidence from the first issue (by the time he drew this one, I believe the first Kickstarter was already a runaway success). I'm interested in seeing him experiment more with page layout.
If you couldn't tell from the ten or so articles we've published (most of them by me) about Larime Taylor and A Voice in the Dark in the past year, I like this book a lot and I think you should check it out. Larime Taylor has quickly achieved the coveted Outhouse Favorite status as a creator, like the Cullen Bunns, Matt Kindts, and Charles Soules before him. Will Taylor also be writing seventeen concurrent ongoing Marvel and DC books a few years from now? If Marvel and DC are lucky, he will be, but I hope he keeps A Voice in the Dark going too, because there's a lot of story potential here with Zoey and the residents of Cutter's Circle.
While I believe it's your responsibility as an Outhouser to pick up this book today, you don't have to take just my word for it. The first issue received a ton of positive reviews and sold out at Diamond, and the simple fact that Top Cow and Image took a chance on a completely unknown creator for an ongoing series is unusual and shows a high level of confidence in the work. This issue is even stronger than the first.
While I originally read this in the Kickstarter version, I read both it and the first issue again in Top Cow's repackaged editions. There's some new (as far as I remember) bonus material here, including a newspaper article about the suicide discussed in this issue, as well as a letters page (yay!) and a pinup of Zoey by Terry Moore (which WAS one of the Kickstarter rewards). All of that is icing on the cake for a satisfying read that is unlike any other book you'll find on the stands today.
Next week should be a light week with the holidays, so you can afford to drop a few extra bucks and pick this up, along with the first issue if your shop still has a copy. If not, you can get it digtially and DRM free from Image (bless their hearts), and presumably from comiXology as well.
Here's the A Voice in the Dark trailer from Comic Con, and some preview images we swiped from CBR. I'm only posting the first seven pages though, because the rest are kind of spoilery and emblazoned with a gaudy CBR EXCLUSIVE watermark. Dicks. The press email we were sent about this mentions that Taylor is available "for interviews and events," so make sure to book him early for your birthday party or bar mitzvah.
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