Story: Neil Gibson
Art: Various Contributors
Twisted Dark: Volume One (SC)
Publisher: T Publication
Review By: John M. Scrudder
Twisted Dark: Volume One, is a horror anthology of 11 short stories by writer Neil Gibson.
I’ve never been a real fan of horror comics, even dating back to the extremely well written and even more brilliantly illustrated E.C. Comics. They just never really resonated with me. I think, as a whole, horror comics are a tricky medium. One good story doesn’t necessarily lead to a good series, I think that’s why short horror stories and anthologies work as well as they do. That being said, what Neil Gibson delivers here is an astoundingly fresh look at the horror comic genre. Not only do his stories rely almost completely on the psychological aspect of the human condition, but he also paces the stories just right.
The book kicks off with a fast paced Internet chat about suicidal thoughts, it’s a rush that pushes you into the overall hint of what is to come in the rest of the stories. The next story “Routine” slows the pace down dramatically, allowing you to fall into a sleepy lull full of false pretenses of comfort, which isn’t easy given Gibson’s “Tabatha” artist partner’s Caspar Wijnigaard’s jagged sketchy look of landscape and characters. It’s an unnerving tale that unwinds at a slow, but calculated pace. The ending almost brings a sigh of relief – this is one of those “You think you know the ending” sort of stories and then are relieved to find out you’re wrong… or were you? This story hooked me and I couldn’t wait for the rest.
The Story “A Lighter Note” was by far my favorite. Born a poor boy in India, Rajeev wants more out of his life. But he realizes that hard work doesn’t really pay. But what’s a poor boy from India to do? Ascending to nothing short of slavery, Rajeev comes up with a plan so brilliant and so (seemingly) compassionate and caring of his fellow laborers/slaves that the end result will leave you truly shocked. This is the one that sealed it for me. Neil Gibson has got something.
The following story was sort of a derailment; “Windowpayne” has a narrative that flows well, almost always seemingly arriving at a point, though, when the point arrives, it arrives with no explanation. The previous story had me biting at my lip, and this story honestly had me scratching my head.
The Story Cocaina is wedged between two very fun stories “The Game” and “Blame”. I felt Cocaina fell short when it came to the story but it did have a connection to the second to last story, Munchausen’s Little Pony.
“The Game” is a look at the definition of what’s reality, with a simple answer (if not a sad) one, reality is whatever we choose to believe. It’s unnerving in the sense that it’s ALL relative, our lives, our perceptions and our interaction with every other human on the planet. The bookend of this is “Blame” a fast run like the first short story in the book “Suicide” but ultimately far more enjoyable and meaningful. It’s this kind of structure and story layout that really brings Twisted Dark into a realm of its own. Neil Gibson knows how to escalate, de-rail and jar you, and then bring you back together at the end for one final shock.
“The Pushman” is another story with an interesting concept but ultimately fails as a tail of twisted darkness. It’s a story that every one of us has lived through in one way or another; specifically, how we deal with the unfortunate hands in life we are dealt. It’s a lesser version I feel of the earlier story “Windowpayne” – but in a way, it holds its own. Perhaps both of those stories are in the book to anchor that fact that sometimes, the truly horrific things are just the seeds that are planted in a humans mind. The fruition isn’t always the same, and it’s not always terrifying. But the dynamic glimpses into these characters deliver to us those different aspects. Something for everyone, yes?
“A Heavenly Note” is the continuation of Rajeev’s life – this time around, however, you’re prepared for what’s to come. It’s dislodged though, out of place. The first story was fantastic, the second stories introduction of what Rajeev gets into next sets itself up for an inevitable conclusion (in this post 9/11 era in which we live) so the ending is sort of disappointing, if not accurate to Rajeev’s path.
“Munchausen’s Little Pony” Is the sickest of all the tales because it truly shows us the capable evil that lives within all of us. It’s a ride that evokes equal parts of empathy and anger. It had aspects which reminded me of the film “Antichrist” with Willem Dafoe, which is a deft touch by the author to be sure. As the story concludes – Neil Gibson delivers us one last (thoughtful) blow with the wonderful short story “The last Laugh” This one I’ll leave alone, you’ll have to pick up this anthology to find out. I’ve always loved the BBC series’ Life, Planet Earth and the Human Planet.
“For those of you tired of the same old horror redirect, I would suggest checking out the skilled writing chops of author Neil Gibson’s Twisted Dark. A horror anthology that taps into the psychological aspects of the human condition, revealing to the reader that the truly terrifying things aren’t people wearing hockey masks and wielding machetes, but the things which originate within our own minds. Those are the truly twisted dark things, and Neil Gibson will show you why”.
For more works by Neil Gibson, check out the website HERE!