After Dark #1-3 (Radical Comics)

Training Day director Antoine Fuqua and actor Wesley Snipes team up to craft a dystopian action-adventure that reads more like a movie pitch than a comic book.

 
50 pgs. (each), color; $4.99 (each)
(W: Peter Milligan; A: Jeff Nentrup, Sara Biddle, Leonardo Manco)
 
I’ve recently commented on how several Radical Comics series seem to be designed with film adaptation in mind, which is not necessarily a bad thing if they also work as comics. However the three-issue miniseries of After Dark (or should I say the first miniseries of After Dark since this one ends by setting up its own sequel) has reached the point of no return as far as I’m concerned: it’s so busy supplying all the elements necessary for a dystopian action-adventure film that it feels like a pitch for that film rather than a comic to be enjoyed for its own sake. And I’m not just saying that because the series was created by Antoine Fuqua and Wesley Snipes. Reading After Dark is like talking to someone at a party whose attention is firmly focused over your left shoulder in case someone more influential/better looking/carrying a tray of martinis should come along.
 
The world of After Dark has that odd blend of antiquity (flowing robes, decaying monuments) and modernity (shimmering high-rises, flying tanks, personal aircraft that gives you advice) that you see in a lot of futuristic fiction. We’re in the near future and the earth has been plunged into nearly perpetual darkness. The remaining human beings live in domed cities but life within those cities is hardly a picnic, what with the riots and gangs and casual street crime and all.
 
A mismatched band of character types is dispatched from Solar City on a mission to find and bring back a woman known as Angel whose likeness is seen everywhere from statues to graffiti, but whose actual whereabouts are unknown. The search takes them into the wilderness outside their city and despite the fact that danger is all around them, they also find time to fight with each other. The story is partially narrated, film noir style, by Lieutenant Brood who has some very nifty ritual scarification on his face. The expeditionary force is led by Omar, more often simply called "The Bedouin," and his crew includes a hothead named Monclare (or "Monster" since everyone seems to have a nickname), two shapely women (their t-shirts give a new meaning to the term "tighty whities"), a hooded swordsman named Kobi, and, well, you get the idea.
 
Peter Milligan’s writing is skillful, and I’m going to give him the benefit of the doubt and assume that he was told to produce a skeletal outline for a movie because that’s the way the comic reads. The first issue was illustrated by Jeff Nentrup (with a credit for "additional art" given to Sara Biddle) and while he does well in the dark, spooky, long-shot scenes, those involving people, particularly close-ups of faces, are less successful. They look like minimally altered photo references and there’s no feeling of action. Instead, even frames portraying fights look like frozen poses and the more light there is in a scene, the worse it looks. Issues 2 and 3 were illustrated by Leonardo Manco with paints by Kinsun Loh, Jerry Choo and Sansan Saw, and they’re more up to the quality I expect from a Radical comic. There are several full-page spreads in these issues which are really impressive and Manco just does an all-around better job at making his art lively and interesting. A darker palette, more interesting frame layouts, and more modeling in the faces makes all the difference.
 
You can see a preview of some of the art for After Dark here: http://radicalpublishing.com/titles/comics/after-dark. | Sarah Boslaugh

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