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In his creator-owned A Voice in the Dark (Image/Top Cow), the amazingly talented writer and artist Larime Taylor emphatically embraces darkness as both inspiration and instigator.  He has exploited his relationship with the dark side to a great effect: A Voice in the Dark #1 received quite a bit of well-deserved attention and sold out at the distributor level before it even hit the stands; and through the first three issues, he’s used soul-eclipsing shadows as a grindstone for his own voice–to varying degrees of sharpness.

Sure, Taylor’s super-sized initial offering–delivered in a deliberately drawn out manner–laid an effective enough foundation and gave us something to enjoy–and, for many reasons, admire; but his voice reverberates most effectively in the tense second installment, in which Zoey–the morosely murderous protagonist, who happens to host a college radio call-in show–counsels a seemingly suicidal caller, who, shockingly, has planned to embrace an even darker -cide.  Taylor does a bang-up job of selling the suspense with his patient pacing, which erupts in a parricidal twist that throws Zoey for quite a loop.

Lamentably, that loop lasts the entirety of issue #3, on its own a carousel of conversation that triples down on a singular revelation, leaving us wondering if Taylor’s voice is focused too fervently on setting up what’s to come; if he’s unwilling or unable to collapse conversations, to lean out scenes, or to give us the credit we deserve as willing and able participants in this game–partners who don’t mind if our minds end up, in the case of a well-crafted comic, in the gutter, where we may fill in the gaps, as necessary.  Certainly, he–and #3–would’ve been better served had he followed his own killer advice: “Let’s leave a little to the imagination.”

A Voice in the Dark #4

A Voice in the Dark #4

It’s tough to imagine that Taylor would take a similar tack going forward.  Unfortunately, he does.  Issue #4–“Killing Game, Pt. 2,” in stores Wednesday (2/19)–is more of the same: while more effective than the previous part in the sense that the story isn’t stuck in the same cyclical set-up rut, the pacing problems persist as Taylor spells out every moment methodically, murdering any humor and any suspense–the pancake and butter of the series–with cruelly dull dialogue and a string of stereotypes that, like, read in mono.  Taylor’s heavy-handedness is highlighted, however, as the ethical dilemma at the heart of the issue–and the series as a whole–is played out clumsily in a college classroom, leaving me wondering if Taylor himself would concede that, along the way, “too many mistakes [were] made.”  If not mistakes, certainly questionable choices.  Hey, now there’s a topic worthy of debate!

So, the biggest question becomes, then: what choice will I make when I see #5 on the shelf in a month’s time?  If I’m being honest, I expected that Taylor’s voice after four issues would be scalpel sharp and that I would be celebrating his surgical precision with a splattering of bloodstained compliments, the happy result of my metaphorical exsanguination.  Surprisingly, the series has been more of a slow bleed: Taylor has inexplicably shunned momentum and, as a result, has unexpectedly left me in a position where I have to hold out hope that he can return to the form that made me a fan in the first place.  But it’s more than hope, really: I’m willing to stick around–probably for the remainder of the series–because I know Taylor has it in him; #2 is all the proof I need.  I trust–and I don’t do so lightly–that his voice is still being held to some soul-eclipsing shadow deep there in the dark; and, once ready, he’ll scream.

I want to be there to hear it.

Turning pages,