Writer: Steve Niles
Artist(s): Scott Hampton, Chris Chuckry (c)
Publisher: DC Comics
Plot: Simon, the walking nightmare has nightmares of his own. Beth, Detective Kirk and the evil Vincent invade Simon’s home turf while Simon protects a home that’s been invaded.
Commentary: First, Ugh! Another Gotham City tagline on the cover! This will continue to bother me until DC let’s this book stand on its own. Second, this is the best issue yet. We get a truly chilling opening dream sequence in glorious black and white. Chris Chuckry’s blacks, whites and grays bring the desired nostalgia and homage to horror hits gone by. Here we have the creepy castle on the crag in the distance illuminated by lightning as the bats flit by. Great stuff! We turn the page to the nightmare scene of a masked child sitting at a dinner table with his parents while appendages dangle from hooks and chains overhead. Brrrrrrr. Niles and Hampton give us homage as a blimp with the label, ‘Victor Whale’s Bargain Body Parts’ floats by in the background. The references are not lost on any long time classic horror movie fan.
The saga of Simon Dark is truly starting to shape up to be “an interesting monster” in both character and overall story. In the opening nightmare scene the child at the table lifts his mask and the face revealed is clearly Negro. Last issue Simon’s face was revealed and it was clearly Caucasian. Is the child in the dream Simon? Or, as was hinted at last issue is Simon not the only one? The Negro boy watches as other children around the table burst into flames and then Simon wakes up in the midst of his neighborhood friends. Who were these flaming children? Failed experiments? Niles, Hampton and Chuckry start the issue off with some tantalizing story and visuals and that’s just in the first three pages.
Niles, like Mary Shelly in the original Frankenstein novel, really makes us empathize and feel for the wretched creature that Simon is. Upon waking he is confronted by Beth. All he knows about her is that she had him on a slab in a morgue and cut him. He flees into the cold wintry night with the words, “I don’t want to be cut! I won’t let you cut me up again!” Wouldn’t that be the natural reaction of an unnatural creature trying to find some peace in the world? Simon having been so wronged and pained has a keen sense of right and wrong. He doesn’t know what he is but he knows his very existence is wrong and that somehow if he does right things then his existence can be right. Niles can do gore-festing but with this third issue he gives us more character development and atmosphere than anything else. Simon’s story is all the more poignant and engrossing for it. That’s not to say there aren’t moments of grossness and black humor. Detective Kirk plucks Vincent’s spy eyeball from the wall he placed it in and “smacks one out of the park” with a rolled up newspaper. Vincent howls in pain somewhere in the distance. This is sick and hilarious at the same time.
While returning to the house where he stole the book in issue #1, Simon catches up with Eddie the Machete who is about to maim or kill Rachel Dodds, the books owner. Simon is wielding an old fashioned hand saw as he sneaks up behind Eddie. We fully expect Simon, being a monster (and Niles having a penchant for blood and guts) to decapitate Eddie. He would accept that Rachel implores him not to. Instead he incapacitates Eddie without drawing a drop of blood. Niles with this scene turns our expectation of Simon and of himself on there head. Simon doesn’t have to yield to his monstrous urges. He is capable of finding another way; the way of a true protector and hero. He delivers Machete hog tied to Detective Kirks office; complete with an apple in his mouth. I wouldn’t be surprised if Simon saw this in a book somewhere. The only unfortunate thing is that the issue ends with a reference to Batman. I hope Nile’s can pull off their inevitable meeting and DC doesn’t try and drag Simon into Countdown some how. Enough of DC’s core books are being derailed by the Countdown ties. It would be a shame for this little gem of a book to be tarnished in such a way.
Final Word: Niles, Hampton and Chuckry bring the sympathetic monster into the 21st century with homages to things gone by and a depth of characterization.
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