After a long hiatus Dark Engine is back with a vengeance. A story as grand as it is gory: Dark Engine chronicles the tale of Sym, a warrior woman created by a sect of alchemists to save the earth in the past from a dark/gothic Lovecraftian future. However this issue is not of her or her potential villain “The Dragon”. No, this is altogether something more terrifying. The revelation of the ruined earth and the being that destroyed it.
We begin in the abyssal depths of the sea, panels curving into wave shapes and as a shark appears out of the blackened waters, devouring, or at least trying to devour, a wreathing tentacled monstrosity, swallow coloured and with red spiralling eyes. As the panels continue the scene becomes a whirlpool of gore and teeth as the narration continues about the dark god who would “crack the world” “tear it asunder” “and devour it” the shark becoming an all too discomforting visual metaphor for the earth as Xurh-Rahab’n (the dark god in question) devours it whole. It’s a painful, tense and shocking opener to the issue – so make sure you haven’t eaten beforehand.
Pressing further on in the issue, the Lovecraftian theme grows stronger as the history of Xurh-Rahab’n begins to open, told by Alchemists anointing a new character “The Inkfaced Ranger”. The present tense panels are awash with warm orange and brown tones illuminated by soft yellows, yet still retaining the dark dynamic lined shadowing that prevails throughout the series. The panels again give way to a nightmarish rendition of the world raised by this Xurh-Rahab’n, who in its entirety looks like an age old Tokusatsu creature/Cthulhu and something conjured from the mind of Tim Burton. Eyes swirl, teeth protrude from it and a cascade of tentacles vomit burgundy coloured blood and spawn vile yellow sporedevils – it’s mind-bending and nightmarish but undeniably amazing to see the amount of paint and ink detail going into the devastation shown on the page- a fantastic demonstration of Bivens and Fizpatrick’s artist skills.
Nearer to the end of the issue the tale continues as, unlike Lovecraft, we get to see the aftermath of the god’s rule – a deserted earth populated by few humans and dreaded monsters. The few details are kept exclusively to the narrative text boxes, and the palettes give way to earthy oranges and cream colours. A few allusions are made to the Sym’s role in the tale – keeping her in mind rather than sight – the main focus being her enemies and a glimpse into their cause against her. Speaking of which, checking back on the The Inkface Ranger- he’s an enigmatic figure, stonefaced and near silent. He looks the antithesis of Sym: clothed in leather, steel sword with the addition of red attire and tattoo. A contrasting “modern” villain to Sym’s primitive and pale bone-armoured self. With his introduction made, I can’t help but be intrigued to see what Burton and the art team have in store for him and Sym in later issues.