There’s an inherently silly idea in Dragon Ball that I found absolutely hilarious and awesome as a kid. The idea that there comes a villain so strong that the might of our heroes cannot handle it The only way to prevail is to somehow merge two (or sometimes more) beings into one, combining their strengths, speed, intelligence and skills together, making a single being that is much more powerful than any single being could ever achieve individually. It’s absurd, it’s silly and I still manage to find this awesome as an 11 year old boy, though I do remember my father thinking it pushed the envelope too hard and broke the series for him. To each their own I suppose.
Fusion becomes the central platform in which Al Gofa, the pen name, of French-Canadian artist Alexandre Gouin-Fafard, plays with in Dark Angels of Darkness. In this new release from the Peow Studio, one of the most innovative small press publishers operating at the moment, Dark Angels of Darkness centers around a group of renegade warriors led by a manipulative soldier named Megan putting in motion a coup to overthrow Imperius RHÂÂÂÂÂÂ, an “evil” overlord, who rules the land with an iron fist, but whom they think have lost his edge. The lord of the land has outlawed fusion between beings, and ensures he himself is the only fused being, ensuring his claim as ruler of the world, but he seems to have grown soft. Their plan requires recruiting a whole bunch of colourful characters and fusing them together. However, Megan’s intention might not as noble as they originally seem.
It’s a simplistic, almost childlike concept. Most of the book consist of long fight scenes, with some breaks in between to push the story forward and give sense of why the fights are happening. Less clear is what exactly is at stake in this world. What would happen if Imperius RHÂÂÂÂÂÂ were to be deposed for example is not quite clear, but in a way, it almost doesn’t matter. It’s exciting in the same way playing with action figures was a kid. It’s an action sci-fi comics with just enough of a story, conflicts, emotions and cool design to hold the readers’ attention for the 200 or so pages of this comic. It’s not particularly deep, but it is fun to read. There’s a nice tense scene taking place at the “Super-Cool Bar” where Megan’s attempt to recruit a warrior in his fight against Imperius RHÂÂÂÂÂÂ goes awry and the following action sequences are quite thrilling.
The glue that holds this book together is Al Gofa’s skills as an illustrator. One of the highlight of Dark Angels of Darkness is the colours. Covered in shades of purple, yellow and orange, this book is a marvelous object to look at. Gofa is able to use these colours to great effect and instantly makes his book feel otherworldly. It’s hard to describe Gofa’s style, it’s an eclectic mix of several styles, sometimes embracing tense lines at times and looser lines at other, weaving cross-hatching in certain areas and shifting action storyteliing techniques on a dime. It’s efficient unless it isn’t. Back in 2015, I purchased a sketchbook from Al Gofa called Cimetière 2011-2014 at Librairie Première Issue in Quebec City. I was struck by how broadly ranging his inspirations were and what he was incorporating in his own work. It didn’t really coalesce into a specific style, instead switching rapidly between some heavy Moebius-like vistas, kinetic manga scene or wild mech designs. Dark Angels of Darkness is Gofa’s first book and I immediately noticed how polished it became, how his style evolved into a slightly more coherent whole.
In a way, Dark Angels is an extension of that sketchbook. It’s filled with tons of interesting looking characters to look at, the action stops often to introduce new characters with full of half-page spread with a very nice illustration of said new characters. Whenever the book focuses on these characters, this book is a solid win. It’s not free from issues though, there are certain pages, especially during action-heavy sequences, where I could not understand who was where and doing what. I’ve had to ask myself “what am I looking at?” a few more times than I expected and it was legitimately confusing to decipher what was happening. But the book still has this willingness to push Gofa’s artistic limit by pushing to get to those sprawling mind-bending action. All of this to say, I can forgive some of the small issues when I’m looking at the comic as a whole, but there’s still some work required to make a smooth reading through and through.
Don’t let this discourage you, Dark Angels of Darkness is a really fun action-packed comic. It just makes me more interested in seeing what Al Gofa does next.