The Whispering Dark #3
Christofer Emgård (Writer), Tomás Aira (Artist and Colours), Mauro Mantella (Letters)
2 January, 2019
Chief Hannah Vance and her remaining rangers are making their way through treacherous weather and enemy-riddled territory with the help of their hostage, Erina, the young girl they spared after killing her family. Erina knows some English, but is rendered practically mute by her circumstances. The rangers make headway in their journey, though they lose the desperately ill Bergen on the way. Is his loss one less burden for the group? Or was he seeing things in his fever dreams that could have helped keep the rangers safe?
This third installment of The Whispering Dark is its best yet. What a thrilling ride, so grisly and terrifying! I doubted the direction of this series after two straightforward issues, but this book has me genuinely excited for the rest of the story. I am now quite sure that the horror of this series is meant to be psychological, not supernatural, because the true monsters of this series are the humans.
Over three issues, Hannah has shown an inability to think past her own survival. She embodies all that is wrong with war, a gun-toting, trigger-happy, self-absorbed ranger who shoots first, asks questions later, then masks her guilt with a lack of remorse. As the protagonist of this series, she has become less and less sympathetic. Her insistence to herself that she still has faith in God and a principled belief system are more for her benefit than anyone else’s. Her actions do not back her up.
I feel that is the entire point of The Whispering Dark, and I love it. I’ve been waiting for supernatural creatures to play a large part in this story, but they don’t have to because Hannah Vance is turning into the monster she thinks she keeps seeing. I wonder now where the story will take her and her dwindling group of rangers. Is there a more tangible creature in the dark that has been whispering to her? Or is it just Hannah’s inner voice leading her to her inevitable realisation of her own monstrosity?
Unfortunately, Hannah’s deepened characterisation comes at the expense of any characterisation for the remaining characters. At the start of this book, Hannah is surrounded by three characters of colour: Norton, Watts, and Dr Perez. After three issues, we still know nothing about them, and at this point, I feel that they will simply be treated as props to Hannah’s story, as people of colour often are in entertainment media.
To say I am frustrated by this is putting it mildly. My enthusiasm about reading a comic series with a female soldier in the lead is dampened by the treatment of its characters of colour. How do we still not have stories that are intersectional, even in 2019? What’s worse is that I see little chance for the series to develop the remaining characters of colour in forthcoming issues, which means that despite the strong story and the interesting protagonist, The Whispering Dark will still frustrate a large section of its readers.
Tomás Aira’s art continues to be stunning to look at. He gets to play with light and shadow quite extensively in this issue and once again shows a unique knack for getting it right. There have been so many instances when artists have got shadow work wrong, but Aira does it brilliantly, giving the panels a realistic quality that is subtle but powerful.
This is the goriest issue of the series, but Aira’s depiction of bloodshed never focuses on the gruesomeness of it. I would go so far as saying that the way he lays out the blood is almost beautiful. There are also several little details in this book that I particularly loved—the cave drawings for instance, easy to overlook, but extremely important in the context of the story, so do keep your eye on those.
Aira has a healthy palette to work with in this book. Whereas the second issue was limited in its colour scheme, there is much more room here for Aira to play. The white snow, the red blood, the orange of the fires—there are so many gorgeous panels in this book. Especially that final page, that is as stunning as it is disturbing. A fantastic cliff-hanger to end the book on.
After two good, but not great issues, book three of The Whispering Dark has a pacey plot and great characterisation for its protagonist. The series has squandered any chance it had of being intersectional, which is unfortunate, but one hopes that they will find some way to rectify that in the remainder of the series. The story is getting very exciting, and one feels like the denouement the characters are headed towards will be excellent. If only everyone could be better represented in this story.