‘Sunglasses After Dark’ Comic Review
Sunglasses After Dark is an upcoming comic collection from IDW Publishing. The story is by Nancy A. Collins, with art by Stan Shaw, and graphically adapts Collins’ novel of the same name. Originally released in the mid-90’s by Verotik Publications as a six issue miniseries, the collection has been digitally recolored and re-lettered, and the dialogue and narration have been reconfigured for its re-release. The collection also includes an adaptation of Collins’ short story “Aphra”, a new introduction by the author, and preliminary sketches by Shaw. Before moving further into the review, I would like to state that this a release geared towards a mature audience. There are depictions of fairly graphic violence, sexual assault, and nudity contained in this collection.
In this release we are introduced to Sonja Blue, a hybrid vampire who has been cast off by her maker. Sonja was originally known as Denise Thorne, a teenage girl from an affluent family. On holiday in Paris, she catches the eye of an apparent nobleman, Sir Morgan, and is quickly swept off her feet. Lured away from the party that they are both attending, things quickly change after Morgan gets her alone. The vampire shows his true face, sexually assaults her and bleeds her almost dry, and then leaves her body lying in a ditch like discarded refuse. The only problem for Morgan, and every other blood-sucking leech walking the earth, is that Denise didn’t die—she lived on as Sonja Blue. Filled with hatred and rage towards the parasitic beings that created her, she has become death incarnate towards any of the bloodsuckers that she finds. And, eventually, she will find Morgan and exact her revenge.
This adaptation grabs you and refuses to let go. Initially opening with a scene that allows the reader to gauge what Sonja is capable of, and of what she’s up against, the story quickly transitions to her current predicament. Her history is expanded with various flashbacks, which detail who she was, how she was turned, and her eventual metamorphosis into her current state. The main antagonist’s history is also explored in a similar fashion. Despite the habit of flipping forward and back in time, the story is riveting and flows seamlessly. As someone who owns the original novels, Collins manages to pull off the adaptation without losing the core of the prose release, although some details of her imagined world are lost. Despite this, the writing holds together, conveying the heart of the story to the reader.
Sonja/Denise/The Other have been used in the worst possible manner, and after many years of evolving into their present state, they have decided to take back what was ripped from them. Sonja’s personality encompasses both utter ruthlessness and hard won trust for those who manage to become important in her life. Denise is a thin vestige of what she once was, rarely in control of the being now known as Sonja, a remnant of a more innocent person. The Other is the full nuclear option, which the Sonja/Denise gestalt fights for control of their shared existence. Nothing is innocent to The Other, and she would much rather bathe in blood and slaughter the world than go quiet into the night. These are the players that exist in Sonja’s mind. Along with all of the external conflict that surrounds her the mental battle that persists within herself is even more brutal.
The story’s depiction of both the physical and mental trauma that is inflicted on Sonja is intense and unvarnished. The expansion of this midnight world full of Pretenders is both colorful and heartbreaking, but the focus is on Sonja and her immediate circle. Those who use her tend to die horribly. Those who help her are taken by her enemies. Her family is broken by their own grief, and have disowned what she has become entirely. The adaptation is extremely well crafted, nuanced, and cathartic. An excellent work by Nancy A. Collins, adapting her own novel in a rather complete manner.
The art by Stan Shaw is grotesque, elongated, angular, and abrasive. I absolutely love it, and his work perfectly complements this release. His line work is impeccable, and he also brings in a few instances of heavy black shading, when necessary. The character designs are what the reader should be noticing, along with the character’s expressions and panel composition. His sense of motion, and depiction of the movement and action throughout the story is wonderfully realized. Shaw moves the story along at light speed, never dropping the ball. As far as overall similarity of composition goes, fans of the Pander Brothers (Christine Spar era Grendle, specifically), Teddy Kristiansen, and/or Ted McKeever, should seek out this artist’s output. Outstanding and outré artwork—excellent visuals that truly fit the subject matter of the story.
To sum up, this collection is highly recommended. A gripping story and exceptional artwork combine to make this a must read. I really can’t say much more than I’ve already said, other than go out and pick this up!