Written by Mike Carey and Arvind Ethan David
Artwork by Brendan Cahill
Colors by Joana Lafuente
Letters by Shawn Lee
Eighty years ago, Demons arrived on Earth. They now call themselves the Shaitan (Arabic for 'Devil/Satan') and live alongside humanity in a tenuous co-existence. One of those attempting to keep the peace is London detective Danny Aston. During a raid on a bank being held captive by Shaitan criminals, Danny is injured and is taken to the hospital while his young daughter Maggie rides with him. What happens next will upend his life forever.
As we open the book, we're treated to a couple of sentences of exposition and then dropped right into a scene where we get a somewhat outlandish taste of the world the reader is looking at. Nothing quite grabs the attention like seeing a woman flash her seemingly naked body only to reveal she has a demon's head for a torso. The visual itself makes it enough of an eye-catcher to at least pick it up for that image alone.
However, in terms of designs for the Shaitan, that's as unique as it gets. The rest of the demons in the issue resemble Buffy-style demons, with more humanoid features and some horns thrown in to go, "See? They're demons!" The one exception being a hobo-demon with insectile arms and from there we're told that most demons can change their shape so it seems a bit of a tease when you can essentially look like anything you want. I understand that it's commonplace for monsters that writers and artists want people to sympathize with, to be designed as physically closer to human than monster. That being said, when every Shaitan (save for the flasher demon) has facial designs you could see on a Star Trek TV series, it makes it a little more lackluster.
Danny Aston's hard-boiled world-weary detective makes him an acquired taste as a protagonist, though the edges are somewhat smoothed out by his interactions with his daughter Maggie. His love and protectiveness for her is evident to see in their interactions, if not necessarily in his actions. I mean, who brings their child to a crime scene even when it's an emergency? Half of his dialogue serves as backstory while the rest is "as you know" type exposition, laying down a bare minimum set of ground rules for the world of the series. While it is necessary to world-build for the viewer, the rest of the terminology and interactions are so matter of fact, it seems like the character receiving the explanation should know these pertinent details already.
While the character designs are not new, artist Brendan Cahill gives the characters in the issue expressive, full faces and their emotions can be discerned easily enough with a single look. For instance in one of the last shots, we see one person clearly terrified and desperate, while the other showing opportunism and perhaps a smidgen of sympathy. It reminds me somewhat of Alan Davis and Mark Farmer's collaborations in terms of how solid and colorful the characters, backgrounds and settings can be.
The notion of people from another place that don't look like the current inhabitants and the social and political upheaval that takes place even after eighty years sounds like a perfect premise in terms of the current foreign policy climate. It's ripe for excellent social commentary that I find isn't quite picked up on. The closest we get is one where Aston talks about the Shaitan's outsides being horrible and their horribleness on the inside being worse. Dialogue later suggests that Danny has a more personal reason behind his prejudice.
However, so far all we've seen from the Shaitan are criminals, murderers and swindlers. Even the one potentially sympathetic demon we see is, according to our protagonist, potentially a threat. It undercuts a socially-conscientious message on acceptance through working through problems rather than begrudging tolerance as the narrative seems to put forth.
"Darkness Visible" is a screenplay-turned comic script by Mike Carey and Arvind Ethan David. The premise does sound like it could make a decent B-movie or Syfy channel original film, at the very least. A orld of humans and demons and there's a cop on the edge as the "last line of defense" between the two. It has all the makings of a future MST3K episode or Rifftrax video. The serious tone and almost noirish nature of the issue feels dry enough to warrant a good-natured ribbing. The dialogue is clunky with very little life in it. The artwork, while expressive and well done, isn't fully embracing the potential. In general, Darkness Visible keeps too much promising storytelling hidden in the shadows.