"The Darkness" #101 opens with a tremendous looking lead-in by Ron Marz and John Tyler Christopher setting the stage for the series coming out of the Top Cow crossover series, "Artifacts." The five-page introduction is a thoughtful way to kick off the next chapter of Jackie Estacado's life, informing (or reminding) the reader of the salient points of the Darkness and its current bearer.
My high hopes had to be set aside once the opening salvo of "The Crack in Everything" began. The true meat of this comic, written by David Hine and Jeremy Haun, is much less exposition-filled than the "Reborn" opener and as such has more room to work and stretch out its impact. The result is a full glimpse of the peek readers were offered in "The Darkness" #100 with more set-up and continuation. Hine presents a real-world scenario for Esctacado and the conversation with his wife, Jenny, rings true of the conversation you might have with your Mrs. if you found yourself in the same position as Jackie.
Given an ultimatum by his wife of either ridding himself of the Darkness or never seeing his daughter again, Estacado knows what he has to do. It's a story we've seen in comics and other media time and again: a man trying to cleanse himself of his demons, only in Estacado's case, the demons are very real and hideously evil. This drives Estacado to seek help from the only previous bearer to shed the Darkness: Aram the Witch-King. The interaction between Estacado and Aram is peppered with similarities to Luke and Yoda or even Simba and Rafiki, but with much more sinister results. Throughout the purging, we learn more about Jackie and what drives him now as Hine makes Estacado a character with a bit of redemption for readers to latch onto.
Haun's art is rough-hewn and edgy, prone to details favoring the characters' expressions. It's a dramatic shift from the highly polished appearance of the lead-in tale, but it adds a deep uneasiness to Jackie's quest to rid himself of the Darkness. Haun is a fine match for this tale and when the story shifts to creepy, Haun's edgy, dark drawings magnify that vibe.
"The Darkness" #101 is a decent start for the next stage of one of Image's mainstays. The cliffhanger is not unexpected, but it certainly seems to have packed the most amount of drama possible into the conclusion of this issue. Hine and Haun clearly have a plan and Jackie Estacado's life will never be the same again.