Review: Twisted Dark Volume 3A comic review article by: Felicity Gustafson
Twisted Dark is back with another new book! I actually liked this book better than the last one because this third volume seemed to go back to its original dark roots. Completely different stories, don't get me wrong, but there was more of a horrific aspect to them, like a train crash you can't seem to look away from, while the plots in the second book were a little lighter. Believe it or not, some people were saying that Twisted Dark was too twisted and dark. Hey, call me simple, but when I read a book called Twisted Dark, that's pretty much what I expect out of it and Gibson does a damn good job of handing that out on a silver platter. I was happy to note that he included an author's note in this one that basically said something along the lines of, "this is what Twisted Dark was meant to be, this is what I want to write and while I try, I can't make everyone happy." Amen. Since I liked the first book more than the second, I'm ecstatic about Volume 3. I know to a certain extent that writers and artists have to try to appeal to their audience, but quite frankly, if it impedes with the vision of the work, then the quality will suffer. It's a fine line. So that being said, this book is awesome.
With an anthology, there will always be ups and downs; a few stories you loved and a few stories you hated. With Volume 3, I didn't have any stories I hated, or even any that I disliked -- I genuinely enjoyed the whole book. If pressed for a least favorite, I'd probably have to go with "Love of My Life," but that's mainly because I lack a romantic side. The story was actually quite good, full of feeling, and made me put my life into perspective and think about what absolute despair I would feel if placed in the same position. That's what I love about Twisted Dark -- yes, all the stories are dark and twisted, but they're more than that. There's a variety and each story leaves the reader feeling a different emotion: horror, pity, frustration, understanding or sadness. Neil Gibson delves into the human psyche and pulls out all the fascinating -- and usually appalling -- things that make us human. There are people that make the monsters in movies pale in comparison. Admit it, there's something intriguing in the dark recesses of the brain. It's why I love Twisted Dark.
Because I liked the whole book, it's hard to put my finger on a favorite story. Mainly that's because each story had a different aspect that made me fall in love with it. There were more connections between the stories in this volume, which more than appealed to me. As a reader, it made the stories more personal after having that spark of recognition like in "Love of My Life" and "Hitting Back." Granted, that wasn't a subtle linking between the stories, it was more of an obvious slap to the face by the end, but it had the desired result of spastic flailing and pointing.
Now, the stories "Perfection," "Career Choice" and "Abandoned" were a step apart from the others because the horror was very realistic. Between the media driven bodily perfection craze and the steadily rising crime rate everywhere, mental health issues are a growing concern. Twisted Dark isn't all about hack and slasher crazies, it's about a horrible fascination with what drives people to the point of insanity and even questions, "what is insanity?" What makes a person insane? If they have a reason behind an issue, does that make them merely misunderstood or a monster? What are the limits a mind can be pushed to before it finally snaps? There are some terrors that you can't run from because they're not of the physical world and this book plays with that idea.
"The Bid" and "Lifeboat" are two unique stories. They don't really fit in with any others. Hell, they don't even really fit in with each other. "The Bid" isn't so much of a horror story than a stamp in the Gullible Hall of Fame. It's amazing what people will rationalize when they think they're getting a good deal. It really hit home that people will do anything for money. "Lifeboat" had the best twist out of the whole book. Despite its shortness, it was definitely one of the better stories, even though I got to see a sneak peak of it from the Twisted Dark Facebook page. Even knowing what happened ahead of time, I still marveled at how well Gibson had the scenes unfold.
There's a special type of horror to "Growth," "Silent Justice," "Drink Driving" and "Peace and Quiet." It's that feeling of disbelief, like you can't really believe that just happened or that anyone could actually do that. "Growth" involved a kind of torture that I'd heard about before, but seeing it made it more realistic and made me wonder what it would feel like if my position was reversed with the victim's. Pride is usually a person's downfall. I'm not saying any more than that. "Silent Justice" played on the horrors of greed. Greed and envy can push a person to do unspeakable acts. I did predict the ending of this one ahead of time, but it didn't detract from the reading. There are stories you read because you just need to know the ending and there are some you read because you enjoy the reading. "Drink Driving" goes into the details of the saying, "trust nobody." Seriously, this story will make you paranoid if you think about it long enough. Obviously there are good people in the world, but there are also people that make me question humanity sometimes. "Peace and Quiet" might be my favorite, with "Perfection" as a close second. "Peace and Quiet" combines the grisly, heinous feeling of disbelief with the shock of Gibson's trademark twist. I remember reading this and wondering what the catch was. I knew there was going to be something important happening soon, but I wasn't expecting the conclusion. Yes, I know I'm being vague. It's an attempt at not spoiling anything critical. Twisted Dark doesn't deserve to be spoiled, it's something you get considerably more from if you go into it knowing nothing ahead of time. It's what makes this series so hard to review and I wouldn't try if I didn't honestly think it was worth the read.
The artwork is across the board wonderful. There's a myriad of distinctive styles and shading. Each artist has their own trademark and gives a particular feeling to every story. Some seem to have more of a sinister nature, while some seem to be completely innocent and light. You would be surprised what the thickness of a line, shading and rounded or straight edges will do to differentiate artwork. You can just tell from the pictures in this review.
All in all, Twisted Dark Volume 3 is an absolute gem. The variety of stories and artwork make for an ever changing kaleidoscope of fantastic reading. Gibson knows exactly what buttons to push to captivate his audience and leave them wanting more. This isn't just a book about a bunch of killers like every other horror book, it's about drawing the audience into the gruesomely fascinating corners of the human psyche.
Felicity Gustafson was born in Ohio and, after the astounding realization that there was more to do than look at trees and cows, she decided to become a nerd and got into comics, anime and video games. At Comics Bulletin, she sticks mostly to reviewing things out of the horror and comedy genres. She spends most of her time working in the manufacturing industry, finishing her computer degree and steadfastly avoiding ham fat at all costs.