05th Oct2021

‘Darkhold Alpha #1’ Review (Marvel Comics)

by Dean Fuller

Written by Steve Orlando | Art by Cian Tormey | Published by Marvel Comics

Another big ‘nothing will ever be the same etc etc’ number one issue. Sigh. Whenever I see these I am simultaneously disappointed and intrigued. Disappointed in that so many of these have the feeling of déjà vu. There’s only so many times you can ramp up the promises to 11 after all. Intrigued because, well, I like Steve Orlando, I like Doctor Doom, and with Halloween on the horizon a book featuring The Darkhold is pretty timely. So here I am reading it, genuinely not knowing what I’m going to be, pleasantly surprised or ‘I told you so’ disappointed. Let’s take a look see.

We start below the United States itself, in Abysmia, and the locating of the Marvel Universe book of sins itself, The Darkhold. Created by the Elder God Chthon, a Lovecraftian inspired powerful entity, the book was deliberately left on Earth to enable Chthon to maintain an influence. The book has been encountered by many down the years, from Conan to Modred to Dracula to Werewolf By Night among many others. In the 1990’s it even had its own ongoing series. Now it’s the turn of Scarlet Witch, who’s been having worrying premonitions that Chthon is preparing to return once again. Time to get down to Abysmia, where a certain Latverian has been able to locate the book Wanda needs. Just to complicate things even more, Victor and Wanda have previous. So Marvel.

I think it’s fair to say they have a difference of opinion concerning the book. Wanda has witnessed its corrupting power first hand, being possessed by Chthon himself, and wants it disposed of, whereas Doom is arrogant as ever, believing that only the weak can be dominated by the book. Someone as strong as Doom can control anyone or anything. Wanda begs him to not read the book. Oops says Doom, been there, done that. Now Wanda understands why she has been having the nightmares. Doom’s already awoken Chthon. Nothing more to think about, plans have to be put in place to stop Chthon’s inevitable attack. Doom agrees with Wanda. But how? It seems the book itself can be their guide.

In the past, five ancient warriors managed to defeat Chthon. A Dreamer, a Fool, a Stoic, a Hunter, and a Artist. What if those qualities could be recreated with a modern group? I detect an upcoming superhero montage….but not before Doom laughs at needing others and goes off by himself. Wanda, though, loves a montage. Her magic locates her Dreamer in Iron Man, her Hunter in Blade, her Artist in Wasp, her Stoic in Black Bolt, and her Fool in, who else, Spider-Man. Clever way to combine characters who aren’t necessarily the best ones to fight a huge menace, but are ones editorial have probably told Orlando to use. We know their tricks. Once Wanda explains why they have been gathered together everyone agrees to help, except Black Bolt. He has enough going on as King of his people it seems. Until Doom returns.

At least, we think it’s Doom. He’s been absolutely battered it seems. Doom’s out. He’s off to lick both his wounds and wounded pride, though pretends he is off to plan his next move. Black Bolt steps up after all. The team ready themselves, and soon enough the Darkhold Defenders are ready. Sort of. All have been strangely mutated, with weird variations on their normal costumes. That’s bad enough, though even worse is that it’s not just the costumes that have changed. They’ve become The Defiled, corrupted by Chthon’s evil. Scarlet Witch has her work cut out for her (albeit in a series of one-shots that follow on from this). Bring on the Bad Guys!

I did enjoy this overall, though it did feel like something I’ve seen before several times. Orlando did a good job with his brief, to essentially write the set up issue to launch the event, but it felt a bit like the Fast and Furious films, fun but now mostly repetitive fun. The story ticked along nicely, but with very little room for characters to shine. Doom did his usual scene stealing of course. The art, by Cian Tormey, was solid, with the clean lines I like, though it did feel a bit busy at times. Writer and artist worked well together though.

Not the best thing you’ll read this month, but certainly not the worst. You’ve seen it all before, creatively speaking, but entertaining enough, and any time Doom gets his butt kicked it’s well worth a read.

***½  3.5/5

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