From Darkwood: The Unicorn Hunters
and Tank Girl were to have some strange bastard
love child, and then raised it in Japan, we might end up
with something that closely resembles Antarctic Press’s
Legends From Darkwood.
of their Amerimanga line, Darkwood is the tale
to two girls: Raynd and Rose. Rose is the precious daughter
of the mayor of Unicorntown, a girl who loves all things
magical and wonderous, especially the majestic unicorn.
It is widely reputed that only a virginal maiden can attract
and touch a unicorn. This is true, but a maiden also might
use this opportunity to be so close to these magnificent
beasts to pop out a twelve gauge and make poor Mr. Ed into
a very deceased horsy. Coincidentally, this is exactly what
is the unicorn hunter of Unicorntown; she’s the only
hunter who can get close enough to kill these creatures
and her reasons for doing so are not noble or just or even
close to environmentally sound. No, she does it for the
only reason to do it: unicorn meat sells like edible gold.
This disgusts poor Rose, despite her father’s explication
of the financial benefits of the unicorn meat trade, and
Rose sets off to find a way to keep unicorns from getting
killed, even if it means killing Raynd. Meanwhile, the horned
horses themselves are beginning to get wise to the whole
“maiden pact” and one quadruped in particular
begins to go insane and desire massively gory vengeance
on the masses.
Christopher Reid has the unique ability to make utter insanity
of concept into a workable plot. While it may not seem like
it from the description, Darkwood is actually more
comedy than high fantasy; in fact, Reid uses the comic to
poke fun at the fantasy genre in general. One pub is actually
called “The Old Man With Map Tavern,” where
characters go to find adventuring jobs by checking the “quest
posting board.” There is a subtle sarcasm to almost
all of the characters, save for the naïve Rose that
makes for good and funny dialogue.
of note is Reid’s choice to make Raynd and the Mayor
completely amoral characters that do not care a bit about
what they are doing to the unicorn population. They’re
not evil per se; they simply care more about money than
any notions of righteousness or fairness. They’re
not foils to Rose, but probably more like teachers of “bastardtry,”
that seek to educate Rose on the rigors of the real, non-idyllic
The artwork by John Kantz is good manga
work that contains all of the conventions of the genre.
This is both a good and bad thing; his expressions of surprise
are sometimes the actual emotional rendering of the feeling
the character is going through, and sometimes the character
will be over emphasized (the eyes grow very large, tear
drops of sweat appear, mouth opens like a cave, etc.), which
is more conventional of Japanese comics, but something I
find annoying within the sub-group. There are enough American
style leanings that these instances of Japanese influence
are not overpowering, and Kantz seems able to express emotions,
though somewhat mutely, without the big saucer eyes of manga.
His artwork is also interesting in the way
it switches from what appears to be inked pages, to sketchy,
pencil pages that look somewhat unfinished. It makes for
a far more visually interesting comic. Kantz seems to use
crosshatching and other techniques to texture his backgrounds
and characters, something that most manga are not great
at accomplishing. Kudos to him for using them. Also, he
has a great touch for character design, apparent in the
distinct cast of characters that he has populated the world
with, each one standing out in my mind as individual.
This is a great little pick-up for only
$9.99, in which you get the first four issues, plus an illustrated
character list, and a sketch gallery form the artist. It’s
an excellent and fun read that for me, blends American and
Japanese comic styles rather well, without letting either
overpower the other.