Darkhold is the perfect way to scratch the superhero Halloween itch, especially with the one-shots planned for the mini-event. Darkhold: Alpha set the stage last week, and this week Ryan North and Guillermo Sanna explore what would happen to Iron Man in the early days of building his suit if he had a very evil book to page through. It’s a horror story that’s disturbing, sad, and a compelling horror twist on Tony Stark.
As a spoiler-free review, don’t expect details beyond what is in the preview. The preview does let us know that this story is partly about Tony’s arrogance. He’s sure he can solve the problem of his suit with the story picking up right after he escaped the cave and made his first suit. Instead of building a better mechanical suit with form and function for fighting and protecting himself, he makes it so that it will heal him. It’s an ever-so-slight spin on the function of the suit which ends up making for some incredibly disturbing body horror.
North uses Pepper Potts as the narrator, which gives the story a more tragic angle. She’s in love with him from the start and cares about him deeply, which throws all the tragic turns into a much more emotional place. She doesn’t want to see Tony hurt and is happy to see his take on the suit at first, but when things go south Potts must witness her worst nightmare.
North also uses panels from the original Iron Man comic origin comic Tales of Suspense #39 throughout the issue. They serve as chapter breaks and connect the disturbing twist on Iron Man’s origin in this story to the classic tale. It’s a cool way to show how the original tale inspired the twists and turns while supplying a bit of nostalgia. It also gives the entire issue a What If..? vibe, as if this Darkhold issue could have happened with a sprinkling of a few different details.
Sanna’s art and Ian Herring’s colors give the book a stark contrast that makes the scary moments extra striking. The work is reminiscent of Francesco Francavilla’s style with splashy yellows, blues, and oranges used in backgrounds to make the characters pop. It’s a simplistic-looking style compared to modern superhero comics, giving it an indie horror charm. The art expertly creates disturbing imagery that’s never overly graphic, and yet the visuals are disturbing. One needs to use their imagination as far as what is dripping out of Iron Man’s suit to understand how screwed up his suit is making him.
Much of the issue takes place in tight lab rooms — it’s quite claustrophobic. The idea of being trapped in a small space with a monster you can’t quite understand is capitalized on well.
Darkhold: Iron Man #1 reveals how Iron Man could lose everything while on the search of saving everyone. It has all the sensibilities of a cult ’80s mad scientist sci-fi-horror with a superhero twist.
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