Review: Twisted Dark Volume 2 / by Erik Sugay

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Several months ago, I reviewed the first volume of Twisted Dark. I came away fairly neutral about the product, as it was full of predictable scenarios that still managed to be intriguing. However, once the many brief, seemingly disparate vignettes started subtly linking together, I saw fine potential in it as a starting point for a series. When I finished the first book, I wasn't exactly awaiting the next with bated breath, but I was fairly interested in how the story would progress. Would an over-arching narrative finally come into focus? Would each story, no matter how brief or inconsequential, be folded into something more grand in scope? The short answer to both of those questions is no. At least, not yet. Instead, Volume Two opts to take a path similar to the first, mirroring its predecessor’s predilection toward offering a wide variety of brief stories to contemplate, while doling out hints of cursory connections, should you be paying enough attention to make them. (Perhaps I need to reread and scrutinize the pages of both volumes, but my current understanding is that the second has no connection to the first. I would welcome being incorrect, as the presumed independent nature of the books doesn’t leave me eagerly anticipating the next.)

In spite of that, what’s presented here is fascinating. Similar to the first book’s introductory story, what’s great about this volume is how, right off the bat, even the stories that have no bearing on the larger tale weave morally warped scenarios. For example, the opening chapter left me with no clear sense of right or wrong. Though the illustration clearly shows malevolence from one character, the “victim” practically begged for what befell him. The end result was actually quite pleasant, all things presently considered, leaving me nodding my head as I looked to justify the epilogue’s events.

The second chapter is a bit of a letdown in the sense that the payoff isn't what I expected. This instance of revenge was misguided and, seeing as how the vengeance-bearing victim actually had a huge advantage in absolutely destroying her target socially, it was poorly executed. Granted that the aforementioned tale had a more grievous overtone and was more emotionally involved, a later chapter entitled “The Experiment” showcased a lighthearted, but clearly more clever implementation of revenge.

The final chapter – one that hits a bit close to home as a tale of privacy in a world where personal information is becoming increasingly public due to the advancement of technology – serves as fine a standalone story and a nice setup for linking to other future ones (since we don’t yet know the identity of the shadowy stranger).

Despite any emotional contrasts between the stories, the end result of most of them certainly typifies the dark sentiment that these books strive for. The lone exception, “HMTQ,” is subtly and surprisingly sweet (although a small, cryptic note was slipped into it innocently that should, again, provide a nice link to both past and future stories). It also successfully supplies a sense of scale to the still fuzzy overall yarn. Just as the previous volume showed how darkness persists within people across the globe, this shows how that darkness might transcend generations, giving a sense of time to the proceedings.

The use of different artists, many of whom are returning from the first volume, continues to benefit the compendium. Even though disparate styles comprise it and make individual stories feel unique, there is still a sense of unity to it all. The artists certainly have a keen eye for presentation; one scene is a standout of presentation reflecting both the passage of time and the degradation of a character’s morale. Each chapter embraces the darkness motif and most do so successfully (the chapter “Paranoia,” however, suffers a bit from being too dark in illustration, making some text practically illegible as it blends into the background).

I should note that this one’s certainly more sexually charged than the previous volume. However, like all things here, it isn't presented to titillate, but rather to make you question your own morals and contemplate what you might do in similar situations. Without connecting the individual volumes just yet, the book is at its best when pushing that moral ambiguity. I don’t know where any of this will lead, or if it will lead anywhere, but if does, I do know that it’ll be one heck of a perverse anachronistically ordered journey.

TL;DR – The title continues to be aptly applied with this new set of disturbing chronicles. The collection is so far pretty self-contained, but provides a good idea of how great in scope this series will likely be.

Published by T Publications, the Twisted Dark series is written by Neil Gibson and illustrated by various artists including Atula Siriwardane and Jan Wijngaard. You can purchase volume two here.