By Scott Southard. For some, to paint an Iraq War veteran as a protagonist in this era of storytelling is a difficult thing indeed. With the complex moral issues of a dubiously justified military assault, the footsoldiers of such an endeavor become symbols of ruthless violence and untempered neo-colonialism. From certain perspectives, it’s not a great look.

Iris, the ex-infantryman turned small time moonshiner/construction worker, is but one exception to the rule. His practical straightforwardness and adherence to (not only what he thinks is right, but) what’s truly right and good casts a loveable aura around him, making Iris the kind of guy you’d immediately want to root for. He’s a man that’s dealt with some tough times, but his hard work seems to finally be paying off. Obviously, this being a Vertigo comic, that’s the exact moment where any semblance of reason strips away, and the chaos begins.


We don’t see much in terms of the proposed horror in The Dark and Bloody #1, as most of it focuses on setting up Iris’ domestic life. The quiet countryside home is given real warmth here (due in no small part to the sharp, but subtle art of Scott Godlewski and Patricia Mulvihill). It has a lived-in feel, where things have as much a tangible purpose to the characters as they do to the reader. Here, lights from a porch lamp or an open refrigerator door illuminate the small, unnoticeable things surrounding them, and credence is paid to the small, loving gestures passed between lovers on quiet nights. It’s the kind of place anyone could see themselves settling down in, and I suppose that’s why the impending horror feels so disruptive.

However, I’m not certain that’s where I want the direction of this narrative to move in. There aren’t any glaring problems with the fantastical elements of the story, but the major players are so solid and relatable I kind of wish I was simply reading about their everyday, paycheck-to-paycheck lives tucked away in the woods of the American South. Iris is a person who’s made mistakes, but he’s trying his best to eke out a life with the people he loves. His community has problems, but they aren’t too big to overcome with a little hard work and some home-brewed liquor. Hopefully the monster in the woods keeps its distance and at least some of this world stays intact.

Vertigo Comics/$3.99

Written by Shawn Aldridge.

Art by Scott Godlewski; Color by Patricia Mulvihill.

Letters by Clem Robins.

7 out of 10