The Whispering Dark #2
Christofer Emgård (Writer), Tomás Aira (Artist and Colours), Mauro Mantella (Letters)
21 November, 2018
A copy of this book was provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
When last we saw Chief Hannah Vance and the rangers she had helped rescue, they were trapped in the middle of enemy territory after a nuclear explosion. With no access to food, warmth or shelter, circumstances were dire and tempers frayed. Vance, despite her confident exterior, is questioning every action she takes. As default leader of the group she needs to make the hard calls but that’s easier said than done.
When the group comes across enemy soldiers, things really come to a head. One of their own, Lee, had been presumed dead by fellow ranger, Norton, and left behind. Now they see Lee is alive and in dire straits alongside two other captured soldiers. In the previous issue, Norton had claimed to have seen Lee shot through the head. The rangers now wonder whether Norton simply saw Lee go down and made his escape in a bid to save himself. Things are about to take a very dark turn, leaving Vance to question what she is willing to become.
The Whispering Dark is turning out to be a psychological horror series more than anything else. Among the rangers is Bergen, burning up with fever and hallucinating. But is he actually talking about things he can see or simply imagining them? We are left to wonder about this as Hannah also sees fleeting visions of strange monsters. As I mentioned in my review of the first issue, I really don’t see any reason for there to be any supernatural elements in this series. I was hoping there would be some explanation to the visions Vance sees, but this book only raises more questions.
I am also confused as to why Vance has become so cold in such a short time. Is it instinct that leads her to make decisions she knows she will regret in the future? Vance repeatedly laments the loss of her internal dialogue with God, but what is the voice she thinks she hears in her head? The dark voice pushing her towards more and more violent acts? And could the voice be connected to the strange figure Bergen insists he sees? I wonder if writer Christofer Emgård has bitten off more than he can chew with this story. There are so many metaphysical questions that I feel he will not be able to answer them all in this miniseries.
I had hoped that the diverse cast of characters would be further fleshed out in this issue but alas, that is not to be. African-American character Norton’s position as the resident coward is solidified by the return of his downed colleague. Watts, another African-American soldier, is mainly an angry and violent woman — the less said about that trope, the better. And Doc Pérez has barely any presence except to play peacekeeper.
Once again, the only character with any development is Vance, the white woman protagonist. As brilliant as it is to have a female soldier as the lead, it is a bit frustrating that she is the only character afforded growth, when the characters of colour are shortchanged.
The art continues to be excellent. I think I probably just like Tomás Aira’s style, even though his characters’ faces aren’t completely realistic. The slightly off-skew facial features fit the story; I’m sure in another genre, I wouldn’t enjoy Aira’s art as much.
Aira’s colours are also stunning. He doesn’t get to use as diverse a palette as he had in the first book, but despite the limitations of the tale, he manages to create a vivid landscape. His shadow-work, which I particularly enjoyed in the first book, is once again excellent here. I’ve read a few books recently where shading looks terrible but Aira has a gift for it.
There is a bit more gore here than I would have liked but it’s limited to one page, which is a relief. Too many war stories relish the gore, which usually upstages the actual narrative. This makes me almost certain that The Whispering Dark is more concerned with the horrors within than without. It is why we do what we do that is truly terrifying.
The book ends on a cliffhanger, both mentally and physically, and I am curious to find out what happens next. Hopefully in the next story we will see more development for the other characters and get some much-needed answers about what really is whispering in the dark.