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Simon Dark #1
posted October 20, 2007


Creators: Steve Niles, Scott Hampton, Todd Klein, Chris Chuckry
Publishing Information: DC Comics, comic book, 32 pages, October 2007, $2.99
Ordering Numbers:

imageI'm half-way convinced that DC Comics' new title Simon Dark is some sort of art school project about the modern comic book marketplace, because more than any reaction to the work itself I spent the entire time trying to figure it out as an end result publishing strategy. Do people want an even darker vigilante sharing the same imaginary space as Batman? Really? Are they calling for vaguely Vertigo-y superhero comics where the first action our ostensible takes is a grisly murder? Still? Are they genuinely intrigued by a tougher-than-she-looks medical examiner whose first scenes practically shows her with "I will have a special relationship with Simon Dark" stamped on her forehead? Does Gotham City even have enough rich people at this point to staff yet another secret society? Is the room in the mansion where they talk entirely in plot points called the Exposition Room? Seeing as it's only soaked with radiation instead of stuffed to the gills with crazy-ass murderers and super-terrorists, do lots of people in the DC Universe still live in Prypiat? Hasn't the well for lonely, poorly dressed protagonists reading Edgar Allen Poe and being sad been poisoned by now? Have I lived long enough where 1990s mope has become a presentational style? All in all, the mind kind of boggles. To each his own and everything, but we're not talking about a market where you can put a bunch of new titles out there and this kind of thing can maybe find a small but passionate audience. To survive, a book has to really hit with a lot of people. If there's a place for this kind of project to makes a sales go of it when practically nothing else is working, it might be better to blow up the Direct Market and start over.

imageIt's not that Simon Dark is a bad comic. The art by Scott Hampton has a melancholy, muscular feel to it. Writer Steve Niles has supplied a plot rather than plot points scattered at the feet of a bunch of superheroes standing around calling each other by their first names. The characters are reasonably appealing in a stock sort of way, like the kind you find on one of the Law & Order television series. And yet there are still too many formal hiccups for it to have that feeling of solid craftsmanship that distinguished the early issues of Gotham Central or Sandman Mystery Theatre. For one thing, pacing-wise it lurches forward and whips around awkwardly like a mad, crumping zombie. Some actions break down into multiple panels -- even whole pages -- when a single image or a pair of pictures would seemingly do. Other moments rip past the reader like the side of the road viewed from a moving car. This can be doubly aggravating in that the unevenness sends a message to the reader's subconscious: while the character and his circumstances may be a mystery, it's one we're intentionally not exploring while we spend a lot of time over here on this other stuff. It's the adventure comics fan service equivalent to Snoopy reading War and Peace one word at a time. In the end, there's nothing original in the conception that would keep my interest except perhaps with outstanding execution. While it's certainly possible for creators Niles and Hampton to deliver on that level, this debut issue shows them to be miles away from doing so.