Writer: Jeremy Lambert
Artist: Claire Roe
Colors: Jordie Bellaire
Letters: Becca Carey
Publisher: IDW Comics
Release Date: August 16th, 2023
The Dark Spaces anthology series continues with Dark Spaces: The Hollywood Special #1. This mini-series takes place in the 1940’s, specifically during World War 2, as aging actress Vivian Drake tours the country via train, trying to get people across America to buy war bonds. Vivian, her career waning and flirting with alcoholism after her daughter has disowned her, will face something even worse in the town of Minersville, Pennsylvania.
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Expert storytelling is on display in the first few pages of Dark Spaces: The Hollywood Special #1, where we’re introduced to Vivian Drake and with a minimal amount of narrative, we know a lot about her by the time the War Bonds train pulls into Minersville, PA. The writing and art work together splendidly here to show, not tell, what’s going on. To say Vivian is world-weary is an understatement. She’s happiest when nursing a glass of liquor. The wrinkles in her face, which is the dread of every actress, seem to worsen every day and her daughter barely responds to her letters any more, wanting no part of her. She seems tired of everything, even giving autographs, which she has to do constantly. Even one of the guys working on the train presses her for an autograph, which she musters the enthusiasm to give him.
Like all great horror tales, there’s an atmosphere of dread throughout. Also on the train is another actor, Lou Gaines, who also appears to be past his prime but hasn’t become as jaded as Vivian. After fleshing out the characters in the first half of the book, the second half has the train pulling into Minersville, PA, and that’s when the weirdness begins. Of course, I can’t go into details on what happens, but it’s pretty horrific, and it puts Vivian in a situation she’s never been in before. There’s so much going on in this part of the book it can be as overwhelming to us as to Vivian, and it’s quite chilling too, especially the ending, a terrifying last page that makes you wonder if the supernatural is involved or if Vivian’s just losing her mind. Overall, it’s a great beginning to the mini-series, feeling like an edgier “Twilight Zone”-type story.
Claire Roe’s art on Dark Spaces: The Hollywood Special #1 is wonderfully detailed and enhances the story by revealing things about Vivian that we notice in the background, like the picture of her daughter when she was younger and the two were close. Or the ever present glass of liquor that always seems near her in every scene. One panel shows Vivian’s warped reflection in one of her glasses as she talks to an autograph hound. Her image is warped like a funhouse mirror, a bitter reflection of how the alcoholism has warped her mind and her life. When the horror scenes come they have teeth through Ms. Roe’s art and the way she crafts the panels to slowly reveal details until you get the full impact of what’s going on.
Dark Spaces: The Hollywood Special #1 is a great start to the mini-series, with a fascinating main character, a chilling atmosphere throughout and a terrifying cliffhanger ending. If you’re a horror fan, grab up this book and enjoy the ride! Recommended.