Dark Blood #2 takes a rather unexpected step back from where the first issue left off. Writer LaToya Morgan uses the issue to establish the characters and the world the series is set within, Alabama circa 1955 with a bit of an alternate history sci-fi genre bend. Despite the slight pivot in direction, the issue serves as a basis for setting the stage for what is to come while simultaneously turning its sights on themes on segregation, family, and re-acclimating to civilian life.
Morgan paints a vivid picture in Dark Blood #2, giving us a glimpse of Avery’s world six months before the ever-looming “variance.” The issue pulls back the curtain on Avery’s civilian life, an existence steeped in stark contrast. To his immediate community, Avery is a beloved family man and honored war veteran. Father to his daughter Gracie, with another child on the way, and husband to Emma, a community pillar who runs the local bookmobile – a literal and metaphorical means of spreading knowledge. As meta as it may be, Gracie is fascinated with comic books, sharing her love of science fiction with Avery. We’re let into a heartwarming part of Avery’s world, only to be thrust into a much darker aspect of it soon after.
Outside of Vale Junction, the Black community that appears to provide a modicum of solace in Avery’s life awaits 1950’s America. A time in American history where racism runs rampant and Avery is considered less-than. Morgan pulls no punches in depicting Avery’s treatment as a second-class citizen, merely a sampling of the unfair treatment of the Black community at the time (although, have we really come that far since?). Even powerful references to the Montgomery Bus Boycott are put in to ground the story in some reality. The political and social protest founded in civil rights is an insightful inclusion to the story. And painful as it is to read through, the feelings of resentment, anger, and sheer disgust are intentional. That guttural reaction to Avery’s treatment only further connects the audience to him, planting a seed of yearning in the audience’s mind that Avery will – hopefully – overcome the odds.
While the first issue may have established the sci-fi aspect of the Dark Blood, issue #2 is more grounded yet still incredibly visceral. World building is integral to any good story, and Morgan lays the groundwork perfectly here. The audience is allowed a greater understanding of the central character while simultaneously being fleshed out three-dimensionally. So often, characters are reduced to their base self, but we are all more than that in reality. All the while, selective flashbacks to Avery’s time in the war provide further insights into the potential source of the abnormal abilities.
Readers have already been made privy to some of Avery’s potential abilities in Dark Blood #1, but how this came to be, and the very nature of the “variance” remains unclear. Throughout the issue, flashbacks provide insight into Avery’s plane crash from the first issue, picking up where previous time jumps left off. The issue serves as a slow boil to the inevitable moment Avery unleashes his abilities and decides to do with said abilities. Every panel, every page, is another layer to the story. Narration throughout the issue is present again, but instead takes form as a letter from Emma to Avery during the war. The narration/letter coincides with the action in the panel with aplomb, either perfectly matching the action or providing a clever inverse to it. For example, one panel reads, “we’re all so proud of you. Waiting to welcome you with open arms” while his boss berates Avery. It’s an exciting means of supporting the action on the page while also providing some insights into Emma and Avery’s relationship.
Despite the focus on Avery’s civilian life, the sci-fi aspect isn’t set aside either. Dark Blood #2 introduces a new character with potential ties to the mystery of the variance; considering what we’ve seen thus far, readers may be wary of his intentions, and rightfully so. Dr. Carlisle appears to have Avery’s best interests on the outside, but he introduces his serum “The Magic Bullet.” If you’ve raised an eyebrow of skepticism at this notion, then welcome — you’re also being pulled into the mystery.
Some fans may be looking for more action, adventure, or pure science fiction tropes, but this isn’t necessarily the issue for that. Instead, we get a character-driven story that pulls at the heartstrings and compels readers to side with the hero. But the most captivating part is the mystery at hand. We’re only further enthralled by it because the issue poignantly makes the audience invested in Avery all the more. If good storytelling is character-driven, then Dark Blood #2 checks all the right boxes.
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