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Dark Water
posted November 8, 2004


Creators: Meimu, Koji Suzuki
Publishing Info: ADV Manga, $9.95, 128 pages, 2004
Order Numbers: 1413900445 (ISBN)

Dark Water is a selection of horror stories from the successful international point man for the recent Japanese horror migration, Koji Suzuki of Ringu. Horror is one of the more difficult genres to pull off in comics form, I think because much of what western audiences are currently conditioned for work against what comics tend to do. Films that get by on fast cuts of the horrifying that intrude on mundane activities have a hard time working themselves into the do-it-yourself pacing that comes from reading comics. Writers of scary stories that build strength by leaving much to the imagination have a hard time working with the explicit picture making of comics. There are of course mitigating strengths in setting mood, the power of the image, and the way that the best comics authors can play with transcendent moments, but the difference between looking under the bed later on that evening and slumber in one's chair is slight.

Artist Meimu does a fair job interpreting this suite of short stories from Suzuki. The best effort here is the first tale, which shares the compilation's title, a story of a ghost haunting a mother and a child living in a tenement in a nearly abandoned portion of the city. The strength here is in the details of the daily routine, such as the pair setting fireworks off on the roof, and the subtle sense of being trapped at job and in an apartment that mirrors the fate the haunting spirit. When one of the characters finally flips out, the story become really well paced, unevenly and jaggedly so, and the creators smartly avoid dramatic shifts in panel layout or distorted figure drawing. The other quality comic story here concludes the collection. It subverts the standard terrors of horror writing into a kind of affecting hopelessness about death as an abandonment of those you love. That Suzuki's character here does his level best, and that this effort is later shown to have been appreciated, puts on display the author's true orientation towards such material. He may be too hopeful for horror.

Dark Water gives its readers competent storytelling with occasional flashes of cultural interest, but very little in the way of tense moments or surprises from characterization. After plowing through a bunch of ADV's output it's almost refreshing in its straightforward pacing. But except for moments of the first story, nothing here recommends itself, and much of the book reads like random tales from a 1970s DC Comics anthology. Missed most of all is any opportunity to treat the material in a sophisticated visual fashion. The foreboding blacks of the water connecting these stories stays almost completely in the background, more of a conractually obligated bit player than a compelling representation of the other.

Creators (Meimu, Suzuki)