A camera is designed to capture a moment of time, but what if the picture ended up with something more monstrous and even destructive? An antique camera becomes the catalyst that detonates a series of supernatural events in The Dark Room, a thrilling dark fantasy wrapped in mystery written by Gerry Duggan (X-Men, Deadpool) and illustrated by Scott Buoncristiano (Buffy and Angel).

The story begins in the spring of 1936 during the Great Depression in Cape Cod, Massachusetts. A photographer visits a general store and starts snapping photos of a mother and her child waiting in line for food, then leaves to develop the film. Moments later, the photographer has hung himself in his developing lab, surrounded by pictures of individuals met by grim, gruesome deaths. Fast forward to the present day and the rare collection of Dounia Mahoney, a private curator of cursed antiques. A mysterious elderly stranger by the name of Mr. Outis pays her a visit and inquires about an antique camera. She senses something supernaturally amiss about him, perhaps even ancient and evil. At this point, the story shifts into high gear as Dounia seeks to identify this mysterious figure and uncover his intentions—a quest that leads her to a netherworld hidden deep in the ocean harboring a well-guarded dark room of cursed objects.

Duggan and Buoncristiano transport readers on a dazzling journey that crosses multiple dimensions populated by denizens of the supernatural and the fantastic, ranging from a werewolf and vampires to elves and fairy queens. Walt, a young deceased break dancer whose ghost dons a red track suit, joins Dounia on a fast paced adventure as they maneuver through the wild streets of New York City to the rural backroads of New Jersey. Performing a few magic rituals of her own, she collects a series of clues and encounters one entity after another. Worlds intersect and characters clash, often introduced by full-page panels depicting otherworldly regents in their supernatural realms akin to Guillermo del Toro’s Pan’s Labyrinth and Caitlín R. Kiernan’s The Dreaming. The rapid narrative pace, along with shifting tones of horror, mystery, and even comedy, ventures into psychedelic realms of surrealism while creatures resembling monsters of Lovecraftian proportions run amuck. In selected scenes, crimson red shades to midnight blue tones fill the panel backgrounds to create distinctive, otherworldly ambiences.

Rich in fantastical folklore and mythical elements, The Dark Room showers an assortment of gothic horror and fantasy mixed into a mystery thriller that will draw avid readers to the outlandishly strange and supernatural. Like a train speeding off its tracks into the twilight zone, the rapid action, infused with horror and humor alongside a panoply of bizarre realms, add a fun alternative to dark fantasy collections.

The Dark Room
By Gerry Duggan
Art by Scott Buoncristiano
Image, 2022
ISBN: 9781534321182

Publisher Age Rating: 16+

NFNT Age Recommendation: Adult (18+), Older Teen (16-18)

  • Jerry

    | He/Him Information Strategist, San Francisco Public Library

    Reviewer

    By day, Jerry Dear, APALA member and Information Strategist at the San Francisco Public Library tackles research questions in the Periodicals department. He also teaches in the Library Information Technology department at City College of San Francisco. By night, he serves the Asian American community and ventures into the vibrant literary arts and graphic novel scene. In whatever time remains, he indulges in comics, anime, manga, and Asian American literature and film.

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