After defeating the arsonist known as Morton Thurton last issue, The Darkhold Redeemers were confronted by a strange man with glowing eyes named Modred, who warned them of ghastly events about to take place in the town of Perfection.
To continue The X-Files motif I’ve been comparing this series too, Modred would be this comic’s version of Deep Throat… he’s the man on the inside. Only instead of being on the inside of the US Government, he’s on the inside of the magic of the Darkhold: an Arthurian wizard with all the spells of the Darkhold at his command.
The team follows his warnings and heads to Perfection, where the Darkhold Dwarf (for lack of a name) is giving another page from Chthon’s spell-book to a particularly sad case… a young girl named Aurora, who has been living alone in a shack after her neighbors ran her out for spreading rumors about a local teen football star.
If the above statement didn’t make it clear, I’ll say it outright: Aurora is a rape victim, and more than that, she has a baby on the way.
This is exceptionally dark stuff. Even more so for a comic. Even MORE so for a comic published in the early 90s… and by Marvel to boot. They took real risks with this series, and it shows. The more faith they put in Chris Cooper’s writing, the better the series gets. Each issue so far has topped the last.
Anyway, Aurora uses the Darkhold page and the ‘Other’ offers it beauty… or revenge. She chooses beauty, and it makes her lovely. But when she tries to show it off in town they accuse her of stealing the dress she’s wearing and of trying to “seduce” more boys. To top it off, the man that raped her AGAIN rapes her, along with two other friends, in a sequence of panels I honestly can’t believe Marvel got away with… but then again, I read this as a kid when it came out, and it honestly went right over my head. I knew something bad had happened, but I had no idea what. So perhaps Marvel just knew how to write dark stories that could be enjoyed harmlessly by kids and appreciated on a deeper level by adults… then. They don’t now.
After being raped a second time, Aurora uses the page to seek revenge, opening up a demonic gate to the N’Gari dimension.
This brings up the other point I love about this series: it weaves perfectly in and out of the Marvel Universe as a whole. At the beginning of this issue there’s a scene where The Scarlet Witch is possessed (much in the same way she was in Modred’s first Avengers appearence,) foreshadowing his return. Modred himself gets his origin from Marvel Chillers #1 retold, but in an inventive way that moves along the plot without bogging us down with exposition. And finally, for those who don’t know, the N’Gari are a breed of demon in the Marvel Universe, and are typically the foes of the X-Men.
There’s also a last-page reveal of next month’s guest star that I won’t spoil for anyone who downloads / buys this book.
All these threads are handled beautifully. They all mesh together and seem like organic parts of the story… no meager feat! X-men, Avengers, and Marvel lore all rolled up into one, while still providing new insight into your main characters? Very rarely is this done well, and it’s rarer still that it’s done this well.
My only regret is that this series has been kind of forgotten by Marvel continuity. They’ll do collections of N’Gari stories and this one (while epic) will be left out. Wolverine will mention all the times the demons have escaped, and this will go without mention. Or sometimes it’s even more glaring: when Brian Bendis vilified the Scarlet Witch in his Avengers: Disassembled arc, I was sure he was going to bring up her involvement in the Darkhold books… which he did. His story is almost copied from here, though I’m sure it’s unintentional. And the few things that are different are contradicted here.
So yeah, another great story forgotten by Marvel… but I can’t hold that against the title itself.
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Another 5/5. The important thing is that we don’t forget it.