The new horror series Dark Ride understands there’s something truly special about a good amusement park. Set in a fictional world where a Disneyland-caliber horror amusement park exists, Josh Williamson and Andrei Bressan unveil the most incredible horror park one could imagine – and its dark underbelly.
If you enjoy haunted houses – or if you’re like me and love Halloween Horror nights at Universal – you’ll understand Dark Ride is about celebrating the horror experience. It’s evident once you get a double-page splash of the park complete with a guide in the back detailing each ride, which will have your imagination running. Pair that with a story that slowly unveils how the park works, some creepy and mysterious horror mascots that wander the park, and the man who created most of the rides hiding in a castle off limits to people in the park.
Before we get to the park, we’re introduced to a man who does something terrible. He’s got big ideas and is a massive fan of the macabre and the weird. We see he’s an artist, sketching a figure that eventually ends up as a mascot at the park. There’s a dark mystery and a dark secret tied to the park and the origin of it all that’ll be fun to unpack as the series continues. This opening scene bookends nicely with the cliffhanger setting up a confrontation between father and son. Or maybe just hint at the demon that may be running the whole operation, which might be even more enjoyable. Time will tell.
Enter a super fan, Owen, who gets a job at the park. Starting from the bottom, Owen’s enthusiasm doesn’t waver, and he helps realize how unique the park is, but there are always those who lose sight of something special by being around it for too long. We’re also introduced to the son and daughter of the founder, who are a hot mess. They don’t appreciate the park as much as the new-hire super fan, and that’s clearly an issue on some level. How that’s played out suggests you should be careful what you wish for.
The art by Bressan is a touch cartoony, and it goes hard when things get gory or messed up. It makes a good contrast that can be upsetting and gross in the best ways. The double-page splash of the park is so detailed and inventive that it’s practically worth picking up the first issue for alone. Bressan is rendering a lot in any given panel, like the various patrons of the park walking about or installations of the park to show its inventiveness.
Adriano Lucas’ colors add a fun, bright pop to every page. There are some nice touches, like the warm light of the sunset as Owen begins to get the handle of the gig or the sickly green of the back halls of the underground area of the park.
It’s a little early to wager if Owen is the main character, but his quick origin is detailed in a flashback that’s too simplistic. In general, Owen really only has one emotion: complete excitement. As the surrogate for the audience, he functions well, but if we get more from him going forward, more could be done to make him more complex and realistic. Given the ending, that may not be the case, but it’s still a weaker element of the issue.
Dark Ride is an exciting start to a horror series that feels right at home with horror classics like Creepshow but with a more complex story to unfurl. Fans of amusement parks should get a kick out of the impressive horror park invented here while unpacking the mystery of the park’s evil origins. Dark Ride offers a ride unique from the usual fare you’ll want to visit in real life, but the comic is the next best thing.
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