COMIC REVIEW: A Voice in the Dark

avitd1_articleimageOccasionally, a comic comes along where it’s almost impossible not to look beyond the pages and the story. This comic – a story of bullying, acceptance and friendship – is both dark and heartfelt, and demands your attention, regardless of what you might have read about. If you haven’t heard about A Voice in the Dark, the latest release from TopCow/Image, and you don’t want to know the back-story, you might wish to read it without finding out (in this review, it will be mentioned in the final few paragraphs).

“Detailing the story of serial killer Zoey as she embarks on her freshman year of college and tries to control her dark killing urges”

We’re introduced to Zoey. She is telling us that ‘It’s been 72 days since [she] killed someone’. She’s not quite the serial killer, yet. We’re looking at a flat, grey Seattle. Zoe looks as if she’s African American. I say ‘looks’ because this is a grey-scale comic. She has the appearance but not the colouring. We see her kill a woman for what she did to Seven (her adopted sister and best friend). And then she’s auditioning for a radio-show, pitching an idea where people could call in and talk about their ‘deepest fears or desires’. The story progresses as Zoey settles in and meets people around campus and goes to class. What we see, however, is Zoey’s unreality. By that I mean we see what she thinks she sees – murdering people in a variety of mundane ways; people who annoy her or threaten her. And then the scene cuts to the reality where nothing has happened. Zoey is aware she is having these moments. These scenes are written so well that at first you don’t realise they are imagined, and then you empathise with Zoey – who hasn’t dreamed of sticking a pencil in that annoying colleague’s neck?

The rest of this book is taken up with the investigation into the murder that Zoey really did carry out, although she has convinced the police that she is innocent and she has alibis. What complicates this is that she’s been ‘watched over’ by her gay policeman uncle.

Sometimes I think that the writer is laying on his messages a little thick. There is a philosophy class about morals. There are characters from the fringes of society. There are obvious digs at authority. But the story as a whole, works, because you do believe in the characters. And for that, a lot of credit goes to the written dialogue, which fits the story nicely.

As mentioned, the comic is in grey tones and has very regular panelling. Most of the background work appears regular and uninspired – straight lines, monotone walls, etc – as if anything else would distract from the story. The characterisation is also quite flat. The characters all look a little clichéd. Meanwhile, Zoey looks mostly haunted, but occasionally disinterested. There’s also something not quite right with her arms. Too long and wavy. However, overall, the art isn’t a distraction from the story. In fact, in a way that’s difficult to describe, it almost adds to it, creating a slightly unreal atmosphere.

So, Larime Taylor is the debut artist and writer. He is disabled (Arthrogryposis, which is congenital joint contractures in two or more areas of the body). Yes, this story of almost exclusively women was written by a male. It was written, drawn, toned, and lettered using his mouth and a tablet donated to him by Wacom. “I draw on a tablet screen with the stylus in my mouth. I’ve been drawing with my mouth since I was four years old, but drawing digitally has really freed me,” he has said.

Whether this adds to the story or not it is up to you to decide. For me, it didn’t. I read it before I knew this. I even assumed (I know, never assume anything) Larime was female. It would take the views of a female reader to say for certain, but I think his perspective is quite remarkable.

A Voice in the Dark is an intriguing comic in its own right, on which it should be judged. And it is clearly so much more.

Title: A Voice in the Dark

Publisher: Image

Rating: 3.5/5

Reviewer: Ian J Simpson

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One comment

  1. larimegimp /

    Thanks for the review! The art gets stronger as I go, this was my first-ever attempt at sequentials. Things really solidify style-wise in #3.

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