Dark Shadows #1

Dark Shadows was a popular tv show that ran in the late 60's and early 70's. It was a gothic soap opera that had lots of horror elements, including vampires, ghosts, and even some Lovecraftian themes. This post is not about the show, though. It is about the comic book series that spun off from the show. It was from Gold Key. The book assumes you are familiar with the setting and characters of the show. They don't do much to introduce characters or explain the different relationships. If you haven't seen the show you can probably pick up the gist of what's happening, but it will be a little more confusing than it would be for a fan of the show.

The story of the first issue is two boys who come to Collinsport to research the fate of an ancestor of one of them. The man had disappeared while travelling in his capacity as a witch hunter. What they don't know is that Barnabas, a vampire who tends to be the main character of the show after his introduction in episode 211, killed the witch hunter for his role in the death of an innocent girl. Barnabas' minion Willie overhears the boys talking about their goal and rushes off to tell Barnabas.

For some reason Barnabas is afraid they will uncover his part in the man's death, and also his true nature. I'm not sure how they would have accomplished this, and the book doesn't really bother to explain. But Barnabas takes it upon himself to feed them a story about the witch hunter's demise. But apparently he gets so wrapped up that he loses track of time. This causes him to get sloppy and allow a young woman to see him turn into a bat. Her screams bring the two young men, who decide they need to stick around in Collinsport anyway.

At this point Angelique, the ghost of the witch who made Barnabas a vampire, gets involved. She lures the two young men and the young women into the ocean and kills one of the boys and the other two end up in the hospital after being adrift for days. Dr. Hoffman is an ally of Barnabas who agrees to give the young and and young lady a drug that will make them forget. The ghost of the man Angelique killed now knows the secrets of Collinsport and is trying to expose them. Angelique has more convoluted plans that only seem to make things worse. Barnabas' only tactic seems to be to kill everyone. 

The book is a nostalgic read, but isn't great on it's own merits. The story doesn't seem to make a lot of sense. It isn't clear how asking if anyone knows how a witch hunter from 200 ago died would reveal that Barnabas is a vampire and the killer of the witch hunter. (The witch hunter is Reverend Trask by the way, who has part in one of the tv story lines.) Angelique's plans to keep the boys from finding the truth seem more designed to make other people ask questions, especially after she stops the ghostly shenanigans of the one she killed by somehow bringing him back to life. A lot of it just doesn't make sense. The art style is pretty good for the most part, consistent with other books of the era. There are a few panels where characters strike an awkward pose, but overall it's not bad. Given that this is the first issue, there's a good chance the book will get better, so I'm looking forward to reading later issues.


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