13th Oct2021

‘Are You Afraid of Darkseid? #1’ Review (DC Comics)

by Dean Fuller

Written by Various | Art by Various | Published by DC Comics

You can tell Halloween is around the corner when the spookily-themed one-shots appear from all the comic book companies. I’m betting nobody wants to leave that money on the table. Let’s be honest, we’re all suckers for this stuff. I’ve been picking up all Halloween and Holidays Specials from Marvel and DC, and a few indies down the years, for literally three decades or so. Rather like the annual Simpsons Treehouse of Horror episodes, they are always fun and worth a look. This time round, DC have gone with the tried and true format. Have a framing story that links the others together, so all work individually but have some connection too. Let’s take a look.

So ‘Are You Afraid of Darkseid?’ by Elliott Kalan and Mike Norton is the framing sequence story which runs through the book. It features Robin and the Teen Titans on a camping trip telling each other scary stories. First up is Red Arrow with ‘Bloody Mary’ by Kenny Porter and Max Dunbar, where Harley Quinn and a group of kids make an odd team searching a deserted old hotel for the Bloody Mary killer. Turns out Bloody Mary is an Apokolips Female Fury gone wrong, and Darkseid has also come calling to deal with her. Nice enough story and art, with a fun epilogue too. Next up is Robin with ‘Backseat Killer’, by Calvin Kasulke and Rob Guillory, featuring, who else?, Batman. Batman is chasing down The Mad Hatter on an isolated highway, and ends up having an encounter with a mysterious truck that just won’t leave him alone. Nice enough story, though reminded me of the film Duel and a very similar Ghost Rider story awhile back. Let’s be generous and say this was ‘inspired’ by those.

Next up is Lobo’s daughter, Crush, with ‘Escape the Dark Fortress’, by Dave Wielgosz and Pablo Collar, featuring Green Lantern John Stewart. A fresh look at the haunted house story, John has entered the Dark Fortress which can play with your mind and unlock your greatest hopes and fears. A battle of wills ensues, with John sort of winning by performing a power ring exorcism of sorts. It’s a decent tale, nicely drawn. Kid Flash is next up with ‘The Endless Staircase’, by Collin Kelly and Jackson Lanzing, featuring a personal favourite The Phantom Stranger. Told in full page panels style, story driven with text but little dialogue, this is excellent and stands out in terms of quality. It feels like a Phantom Stranger story, one that helps you understand the burden he bears.

Aqualad steps up next with ‘..vs. The Ogopogo’, by Ed Brisson and Christopher Mitten, which features Aquaman and, rather narcissistically, himself. This is the monster story of the issue, which is a rather natural fit for sea based heroes I guess. Sort of a Loch Ness monster riff but set in a Canadian lake. It was ok, the art probably the best part. Red Arrow’s having so much fun she jumps in again, with a Vixen and Wonder Woman tale set in Africa. ‘Black-Eyed-Kids’, by Terry Blas and Garry Brown, is a dark, moody tale with a new riff on a zombie theme, though adding an ecological undertone. Liked the story and art on this, and the message.

Up to now Roundhouse hasn’t wanted to get involved, but has finally decided to chip in a tale. Being the last one it had better be good. ‘The Cellar’, by Jeremy Haun and Tony Akins, features Clark Kent and Lois Lane out in the country looking for two missing girls. They stop in on an isolated house, with an odd old man living there. Clark soon realises the missing girls are in the cellar, but then meets the man’s ‘wife’. She is some sort of magic-based energy vampire, and starts to drain Clark’s life-force. Lois meanwhile deals with the husband, and discovers his real wife has been dead awhile, and something has taken her form. Lois saves the day. Campfire tales told, the Titans realise the message that all their stories shared was teamwork overcomes all. Sort of. If Robin looks behind him at the end, he may need to test that sooner than he expected…

Being honest, a little disappointed with this book overall. All the individual stories were ok, but nothing more. They just weren’t really creepy or scary enough, and just didn’t really engage me that much. The Phantom Stranger and Clark/ Lois stories were the best, with John Stewart just behind, but overall the book felt like a cobbled together collection of inventory stories. All a little bit forced, and all a little bit safe.

I’ve read a lot worse, but I’ve read a lot better. Let’s hope other companies offerings are stronger than this

*** 3/5

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