As Twisted Dark Volume 1 explains, the dictionary definition of “twisted” is something that is unpleasant or unhealthy, abnormal, and the dictionary definition of dark is the absence of light. There is no shortage of either in this excellent comic from TPublications.
Neil Gibson continues his journey to become a leading writer in the comic book industry with Twisted Dark, a set of haunting, nightmarish and indescribably unique tales that explore the dark aspects of human nature. Some are about human psychology, such as a ten year old girl wanting to commit suicide, a father haunted by memories, and a mental patient who longs to see his family again, although he cannot remember their names. In addition to this, we also have a story about how absolute power corrupts everything, as a man leads a successful revolt against his slave-labor-like working conditions, only for his newfound power to eventually go to his head (real power was the only cause that mattered, he thinks to himself), and another about the loneliness and misery that can be bought about by immense fame.
Some of the stories, such as the one mentioned above about the influence of power, and another about how a man is forced to become a drug dealer, felt relevant as they addressed issues present in the world today. People are subjected to hard labor at a minimum wage, people may have to turn to a life of crime to put food on the table, and the fact that Gibson so boldly and unflinchingly tackles these issues makes you wish that there were more storytellers like him in the world. One the other hand, some of the stories, such as “Blame…”, which was about a woman explaining the nature of guilt before taking her terrible vengeance on her sister for a childhood trauma, worked equally well as a relatively straightforward and yet nonetheless effective horror story.
Another of Gibson’s strengths is his unrivaled skill with characters. Here, we have a collection of down on their luck, oddball individuals who really just want to find their place in the world, including a famous architect turned train pusher who longs for his ill father to hurry up and die, a woman who deliberately makes herself ill because she enjoys the attention that it brings her, and a crime lord whose lust for his rival’s daughter proves to be his downfall. The characters in the volume are believable because, unlike many fictional characters, they are far from perfect. No heroes show up to save the day here. Just people who, in a better life, could have been something else. But you know what they say: in real life there are no happy endings.
Each individual story had its own style of artwork which completely suited it’s tone. “Routine”, one of the most psychologically complex stories, had a creepy, almost dreary look to it to match its almost dreamlike tone, whereas “A Lighter Note”, which explored the problems with today’s political landscape, had a more modern and familiar look to convey its contemporary issues. The vastly different styles of artwork, in addition to the different themes and ideas explored in the stories, serves as a testament to Gibson’s extraordinary power as a story teller as you never feel as though you have already been their done that, and instead feel as though you are walking into something imaginative, new and fresh.
Gibson knows how to get under the reader’s skin. One convention that he employs throughout the volume is to trick the reader into thinking that a story will have a happy ending, so that they can go away feeling bright and cheerful, only to abruptly bring them back into reality by revealing the real, less bright ending with such force that it seems as though you have been hit with a sledgehammer.
And with twelve stories packed into one huge volume, you certainly get your money’s worth, as you feel like you are buying twelve separate comics from twelve separate series. One of the stories in the volume was a continuation of a previous one, but went in such a different direction that you’ll barely notice.
By the way, Twisted Dark Volume 1 opened with a description of the differences between Mel Gibson and Neil Gibson, clarifying that Neil is much better looking, so it’s good that that’s been clarified.