Black: The Birth of Evil Comic Books | My Reviews 20 JAN 2011

While fleeing a hit man through the deserted alleys of Denver, a bullet clips Thomas Hunter’s head. He escapes with this life, but later passes out from his wounds… and his world is swallowed by black.

From the dark comes an amazing reality of another world – a world where evil is contained. A world where Thomas is in love with a beautiful woman. A world that stands on the brink of annihilation.

Where does the dream end and reality begin? Every time he falls asleep in one world, he awakes in the other – each facing unimaginable evil, and each with a fate unknowingly tied to the other.

Some say the world hangs in the balance of every choice we make. Now the fate of two worlds hangs in the balance of one man’s choice.

That is, if he can live to see the end of the day.

Admittedly, I am not familiar with writer Ted Dekker and his New York Times Best-selling work, the Circle Trilogy, consisting of the novels Black, Red and White. However, he is certainly quite keen on trying to build his empire and thus in 2007 his publishing company Circle Media pushed out a collection of three graphic novel adaptations of the original trilogy.

Black: The Birth of Evil is the first of the three books.

Adapted by Matt Hansen and Bob Strachan, the story follows a certain Thomas Hunter, a man we are told very little about, but a man who appears to be in some sort of trouble. As the summary suggests, he is shot right at the opening of the story and in so doing we are introduced to this colourful, fantasy “second” world which he appears to inhabit when sleeping in our world. These worlds are accessible as he changes waking state between the two and thus we get fed two separate story lines through the various interactions across the two worlds, but which appear to be quite heavily linked together, so much so that clues garnered from the one feeds directly into the other.

In the world with which we are familiar with, Thomas finds himself in a race against time to stop the great cataclysm, a world ending event learnt about in the fantasy world, one which hinges on the preventing of a deadly airborne virus outbreak, stemming from a mutation of an eagerly awaited vaccine about to be released to the world’s third world countries. This mission takes him and his sister across the globe, and leads to interactions with some very powerful people – not all of which want him alive!

In the secondary, more colourful world, Thomas finds himself having to contend with two very polar factions (in a very almost religious context), one being the completely dark, incarnation of evil contained in the Black Forest, but which seems to hold all the answers he seeks for the questions asked in our world, and the other colourful, good and wholesome, existing only to praise and worship Elyon, but who also seem to hold a major piece of his puzzle.

Being an adaptation of a book means that the graphic novel story sometimes feels as if it rushes forward just a little bit too quickly, skipping out on important little bits of explanatory information as we rush from one situation to the next, particularly in the sections dealing with the real world escapades. However, that said, the story is clear enough and easy to understand, and so you don’t ever feel particularly lost, just perhaps annoyed when the little things don’t add up because of the minor details you feel might have been omitted from the original. As this is the first part of a trilogy, most of the book can be seen as the setup, crafting an intriguing story and doing enough to get us interested in what turns out to be quite an exciting race against time adventure.

The tone is pretty dramatic and adventurous throughout, and although most of the secondary characters aren’t really fleshed out as we go along, Thomas is given enough character to make him likeable, even if we aren’t given a particularly large amount of background information or even character building moments for that matter.

In terms of the book’s artwork, the entire graphic novel appears to be the product of a house calling itself Big Jack Studios, which includes the work of artists Ig Barros, Eduardo Pansica and Ricardo Ratton, with digital colors by Jose Carlos, Giovanni Guimaraes and Alex Starling.

To be honest, the work of the various artists don’t always work so well with one another and one of the guys in particular is responsible for some pretty jarring artwork, thanks to his penchant for radically changing view angles with literally each and every panel and over emphasizing different character poses and reactions, never mind the liberal adjustments to character proportions he seems to like inflicting upon us.

Similarly, the colourists are also responsible for creating some pretty uneven effects, thanks in large part to their insistence on using very sharp, angular shading patterns for the real world sequences and then trying to mix it in with muted, fuzzy shadings for the fantasy sequences. A nice idea, but one not always that well executed.

In other words, outside of Mike S. Miller’s nice front cover artwork, the interior work is best put as average, at times even a little distracting from the story.

(Seriously. The coloured forest? You guys could have been a lot better with the digital inks on that one boys!)

Nevertheless, the package does make for an interesting and enjoyable read and by the time you hit the last page in which the disaster has just clenched its steely grip around the characters’ worlds, you’ll be hitting your bookstore right away to try and grab the next volume, just to see how the rest of this intriguing mystery will unfold.

So in summary, an enjoyable fantasy adventure read, though a little rushed in places (which does tend to detract from the overall), and with pretty average but passable artwork. Not necessarily a must buy, but definitely worth picking up if it happens to stray along your path.

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About Craig Lotter

South African software architect and developer at Touchwork. Husband to a cupcake baker and father to two little girls. I don't have time for myself any more.