Review Dark Book One by Mallie and Hubert
Fortunately for comic book readers, writer Hubert left a few books behind before he took his own life last year (RIP). Drawn by Vincent Mallié, the first book of this story in two volumes, Darkness, continues – and fatally concludes – Hubert’s reverie around gender representations and emancipation.
Darkness is not a standard fantasy story
We understand it after a few pages, although the classic aesthetics and the ballsy dialogues try to mislead us, Darkness is not a standard fantasy story. We should have suspected it from the first page: our protagonist of departure is named "knight Arzhur" – a little like the legendary king but with a cold and also in fact he does not consider himself too much as a knight anymore. It was already a bit buggy as a story but it’s at the first twist that we really understand: the delivered princess is unhappy to be delivered, unhappy to see the monsters that seemed to hold her captive killed, is close to killing her so-called savior in return. And the princess makes fun of the reader and the knight in one fell swoop: "A princess to deliver, but of course ! You didn’t ask yourself many questions ! "
This principle of reversal, first of the traditional story and then of the elements of the universe set up by Hubert and Mallié themselves, continues throughout the tome and is one of the main interests of this reading – it is a quest, where the heroes have to go from a point A to a point B, with helpers and opponents, but it is very difficult to foresee precisely who will help and who will hinder, and how. So for example – I will be vague from now on not to deflate the story further – the items issued at the beginning of the quest to guide and increase the knight by adjuvants will become the exact opposite in the third act. Through the composition, the color, the drawing, Maillé follows perfectly this scenaristic movement by showing, for example, how the magic connection of the princess with nature can be bucolic, humorous, chilling.
If I only said that, one would think that Dark is only a good comic with twists. It is stronger than that in my opinion. It is not a question of making a series of dramatic moves at all costs, but of showing that individuals and things do not have an immutable essence, that they are affected by situations. Besides, the entity that could be described as "evil" – which at first has rather good reasons to act this way and then could become positive by a twelfth turn in the second part – does just that: arranging situations that will produce bad behavior.
And we can reread this first part, in the light of its end, as the description of the situation that produces the final very questionable behavior.
Darkness is more than a comic book with twists and turns, because each state of people and things is consistent, each position is powerful. One understands the tolerance of the king as well as his hardness. We understand both the king and the queen in the debate about the education of the princess, which more or less clearly re-enacts the currently very fashionable debate about republican assimilation – should the princess have a normal education to live in the normal world or an esoteric education to remain nourished by her roots ? Maillé and Hubert have fun to walk us around at all levels, on each page the princess that we could find crude can start to show a great spirit, the knight that we could find gruff can start to show a great delicacy – and conversely.
We are impatiently waiting for the second part, hoping that the course will be maintained.