Last year, Top Cow Productions made industry headlines when they announced their first ever open submission talent hunt. The Top Cow Talent Hunt 2014 winners were announced in April, and even though yours truly didn’t even make the runners-up list (*sniffle*), that doesn’t mean I haven’t been excited to see what the raw new talents selected by publisher Matt Hawkins would bring to the table.
The first offering comes in this week’s “Artifacts #39” and takes the form of a bed-time story told by The Darkness’s star character Jackie Estacado to his daughter Hope. The narrative, entitled “The First Darkness,” centers around an unnamed caveman who gains the power of the Darkness while seeking a means to avenge his cannibal-murdered family.
It is a straightforward story of loss and revenge, crafted remarkably well by writer Raven Heisenberg. Heisenberg has a sparse style, with the script being very light on dialogue. This is, of course, a caveman story, so the lack of language makes perfect sense. He does manage to inject a surprising amount of humor into the tale, both in Estacado’s narration and in the rare direct interactions between Jackie and Hope, as well as Jackie and Jenny Romano. Their interplay is endearing, and their playfulness bookends this decidedly dark tale with a light feeling that makes it go down sweetly.
Where “The First Darkness” really shines is the art. Gustavo Brocanello‘s style is reminiscent of early Stuart Immonen, full of broad-featured characters and thick lines.The expressiveness he layers on to his characters makes the light script hum with otherwise silent emotion, showing a surprisingly wide range. Brocanello also displays an impressive knack for manipulating perspective, as well as putting together dynamic and somewhat unconventional layouts which move the story along at a brisk pace. There are only a couple of panels which appear somewhat lacking, but the overall delivery is absolutely splendid.
“The First Darkness” is a mighty impressive debut for these two rookie creators. While both could definitely use some polish, they’ll almost certainly get more chances in the industry in the years to come. Brocanello in particular is superb in his first professional appearance, and the snippets of dialogue Heisenberg delivers make me want to see him do a full script very soon.
The script is a bit too light on text for me to give it a top rating, but it has all the makings of something good. Gustavo Brocanello is a star in the making. We’ll see him again. Count on it.
“Artifacts #39” earns 7/10