1.13.2014

A Voice In The Dark #3 [Advance Review]

A Voice In The Dark #3 (Image): The artistry of Larime Taylor is growing stronger and stronger, and the cover alone is a good visual representation of his ability to challenge our straight, white, privileged, cisgen, heteronormative (as I exhaust my quota of yupster terminology for the day) assumptions about leads, female leads, off-type female leads, and what that all means culturally in the modern fiction landscape, perhaps even blurring the line between literary fiction and genre fiction, but alas, that’s a whole separate debate, and one rambling run-on sentence in, I’m already digressing off topic and using far too many commas. Pause. Breath. Restart. For example, visually, Taylor’s penchant for realistic body types rather than the fetish finish of superhero style art only bolsters these thematic excursions. 

A Voice In The Dark has a lot to offer as a work of fiction infused with some relevant social hooks, and can appeal to a wide swath of audiences. There’s the coming-of-age bildungsroman that could attract the attention of YA readers, bits of what the aborted Minx line at DC was trying to accomplish with works like Brian Wood and Ryan Kelly’s The New York Four, there’s the dark procedural and psychological aspects present for crime aficionados (like me) who had to study all those John Douglas books, and there’s the way it deals with modern social mores. It’s a glimpse into the complex worldview of disaffected millennials, wherein the paradigm seems to be in a state of perpetual shift. As I heard one lecturer recently quip, Baby Boomers resist change, Gen X embraces change, but Gen Y demands change.

Zoey is the emotional anchor for all of this. She’s just a college kid, but she’s also a killer. Her newfound job as a radio call-in host is something that she hopes will keep her dark desires in check, as she lives somewhat vicariously through the dark musings of her callers. Zoey is already an interesting character construct because of her conflicted psyche. She knows that what she’s capable of doing is wrong, she’s conscious of her actions, and she exhibits some remorse over them, yet she still feels compelled to act out these fantasies and carry them out again. I remember Martin Scorsese discussing his mobsters, all the way from Mean Streets to Goodfellas, and saying that for these individuals, the sin is not in the actual commission of the sin, the real sin is ultimately in acknowledging all of the wrongdoing, but then still wanting to do it all over again anyway. That’s the sin. This is the situation Zoey finds herself in, one that I’ve got to believe would make a fantastic HBO series, as the scramble continues to have “the next Walking Dead” style phenomenon translate to television.

That dichotomy in Zoey’s personality is present even in the naming convention of this arc. With the first two issues gone by (which were originally the result of a successful Kickstarter Campaign), issue three kicks off the “new” material with the five-part arc entitled “The Killing Game.” We suspect that this game isn’t just about the predatory nature of the killer stalking its prey, but it’s also one Zoey’s actually playing with herself. This duality is also present in the very title of the book when you think about it. A Voice In The Dark. The dual meaning is the combination of the fact that Zoey herself can be a force for good in this odd community, she’s the voice in the dark on the radio, one that others can latch onto for help, but it can also refer to the voice compelling her to do bad things, pulling at her from the abyss. I like that level of nuance from Taylor’s writing.

On one hand, Zoey’s running diary entries are an easy expositional tool that allows for voiceover narration pointed directly at the audience. If I was going to point a standard critical assault at Taylor, I could say that I’d like to see that type of character development come more naturally through interactions with other characters and whatever adversity is thrown her way. But, the diary entries are actually written so well, that we hardly recognize it as the tool it is. I think some critics (myself included) might also be tempted to say that Taylor emphasizes his foreground figures and renders them in a strong fashion, but that his backgrounds are relatively simplistic. It’s probably easy to think that these representational outlines in the background don’t feel as thoroughly cared for, but I sort of like that hard distinction between the fore and aft, it makes the objects pop like 3D, with a gray scale differential offsetting the parts we’re supposed to be focusing on.

Buying that this town is the serial murder capital of the world does require some suspension of disbelief, but Larime Taylor seems to reward that act of faith with other writing strengths. “Slaughter Scholar” alone is probably one of my new favorite terms, and there’s a subdued wry sense of confessional humor running throughout. “I’m feeling really bad about fantasy-strangling her now” is downright Whedon-esque, and definitely made me chuckle. I also really liked the simplicity of Zoey responding with “…okay” as she digests the plethora of new broadcast guidelines laid out by her boss Jill. It’s the “…” that precedes the “okay” which makes all the difference. That’s such a smart pause, indicating that she’s working to process how she’ll continue. That level of detail might be inconsequential to most, but it’s the kind of thing I like to pick up on.

It’s also interesting that her new anonymity for “work” also now gives Zoey great additional cover for her other activities. In addition to her boss, her therapist is now even adamant about protecting her identity. So, we have boss, therapist, friends, and Detective Uncle all working to shield her from the light of day, proving that integrity is really about doing what’s right when nobody else is looking. This is Zoey's test. The psychological aspects of this book are so well written that they’re either from good research, good training and experience in the field, or first hand knowledge. At the end, there’s a pretty dope Ben Templesmith pin-up and a “Poor Luna” sequence that I won’t spoil further. I’m willing to bet that this is the best new comic you’re not reading yet. Grade A.

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