Cover to 'Dark Ark' #1. Art by Juan Doe/AfterShock Comics

Cover to ‘Dark Ark’ #1. Art by Juan Doe/AfterShock Comics

By Arpad Okay. It’s end of days. The floodwaters rise, the ark is laden with animals two by two, the Lord wishes to save His world as well as cleanse it. The thing is, he isn’t alone. Dark Ark asks the question, what about the Dark Lord’s machinations? Who looks out for the cryptids?

It’s a great concept for a story. The wizard Shrae has been tasked with saving the world’s unnatural creatures. Vampires. Unicorns. Chimeras. Harpies. All the monsters of antiquity are housed below deck. This isn’t just keeping the lions from eating the lambs. This is a boat full of calculated supernatural killers who have it out for everybody.

Cullen Bunn might have struck gold on this one, and working with Juan Doe takes it to the next level. Doe’s art, his bold compositions and striking neon colors, are filtered here through a dark screen. There’s a self-imposed constraint that anchors the monsters and enlivens the crew. Even the color choices on the beams inside the hold are flawless. The outside world and the family drama has a muted gravitas, but the monsters? Their environs are pure Suspiria.

Interior page from 'Dark Ark' #1. Art by Juan Doe/AfterShock Comics

Interior page from ‘Dark Ark’ #1. Art by Juan Doe/AfterShock Comics

Beyond a cool idea, Bunn and Doe have worked up a dense story of moral complexity. The doom that befell the planet poses a tricky question: God may not want them, but would you want to live in a world without monsters? No unicorns? No dragons or orcs? Every fan of fantasy owes Shrae a favor. The mix of creatures on board is a problem unto itself. You can’t expect them to behave; their nature is to be deceitful, to stir up trouble, to kill. What they’re fed — living, human prisoners — that’s a whole book’s worth of moral quandary right there. And Shrae’s family? Those he has taken on this task? Some of them are survivalists, and some of them are just sympathetic people.

The multifaceted characters are the final awesome nail in the coffin. Shrae and company may be ferrying evil to unknown shores, but they are as conflicted about what they’re doing as the reader is. And the animals can talk. They have agency. They can (and do) mess with the family. They mess with each other. The flood is the least of the passengers’ worries. Nature is a killer, on and off the ark.

Aftershock Comics/$3.99

Written by Cullen Bunn.

Art by Juan Doe.

Letters by Ryane Hill.

7.5 out of 10