If you are an avid reader of comic books for as long as I’ve been, you tend to develop an appreciation for art from all corners of the world, whether it’s paintings, or this case, tattoos on a human body. I myself would never get a tattoo, but I certainly can be impressed with the artistry. We have seen comic book creations that evoke tattooing, such as the Tattooed Man and even Shade, the Changing Man, so what does this new Image title, The Marked, bring to the table?
As part of Jim Valentino’s Shadowline imprint, The Marked focuses on the eponymous ancient order that secretly protects the world from evil forces with magical glyphs tattooed on their bodies. Opening with a double-sized issue, we learn about the history of the Marked through the new member Saskia, a young aspiring artist who initially thought of the order as an art school.
Like I said, the first issue is longer than your standard-length comic book, as writers David Hine and Brian Haberlin – the latter of whom also serves as the book’s artist – go through a lot of exposition from all the other members of the Marked to the history or the order fighting evil in all its mystical incarnations over the decades that climaxed in World War II. Based on the art alone that stunningly showcases pieces of this history, you wish the comic was exploring those elements, but because the comic has to keep moving whilst doing a lot of info dropping, this is where the problems start to unveil.
Once Saskia is initiated into the group with a greater understanding of their magical glyphs, she is influenced by another member Liza, who has been experimenting with a dangerous new form of Hybrid Sorcery, which leads to repercussions. Due to her reckless actions, Liza is forced out of the order, though her magic remains due to secretly receiving a glamour glyph from fellow member Benis. When she is recruited by the government’s occult research department, Stargate, Liza is encouraged to take her magic to the limits and beyond.
Considering the change of perspective early on from one character to the next, the structure of the comic is rather loose, as most of the volume is about Liza and her participation in Stargate (later retitled Shadowgate), leading to villainous results. There are some interesting ideas, such as when you find out about who Benis is without the glamor, as well as the necessity of fighting evil with evil as revealed in the final issue, but a lot of it gets lost in the storytelling that just has to keep moving. We never get the chance to know the other members of the Marked, so when the climax does occur where blood is shed, we don’t really care.
Since an artist co-writes the story, much of what works about the comic is Brian Haberlin’s art along with Geirrod van Dyke’s colors, blends paintings, tattoo art, and some amazingly strong pencil work, culminating in a work that looks unlike any other. Reminiscent of the style of Frazer Irving, the art will look left-field for some readers as there are some panels showing the anatomy of a number of characters looking off, whilst the fantasy-based action can be static with the amount of visual noise happening in nearly every page.