dahlia in the darkDahlia in the Dark, Vol. 1

Writer: Joe Corallo
Artist: Andrea Milana
Letterer: Micah Myers
Publisher: Mad Cave Studios

A magical cold war on the brink of becoming hot, gangster werewolves, shady humans trying to make a buck off playing both sides, and a hitman with a past darker than the intentions of the evil fairy king. These are just some of the key aspects that make up the fantasy crime story of Dahlia in the Dark collected edition as published by Mad Cave Studios. Written by Joe Corallo, art by Andrea Milana, and letters by Micah Myers, the six-issue series focuses on Donny Dahlia, a hitman whose targets range from the average human to terrifying werewolves, as he must complete one seemingly easy final transport job that turns out to be anything but. Making his way cross-country with a package everyone seems to want, Donny just wishes he could go back in time and change the type of father he was to his estranged daughter that his complicated profession put into danger numerous times until it became too much.
The creative team works well together in constructing this alternate, magical take on our own world where the supernatural and mundane interact regularly, but at odds. To relate to other existing media to drive interest towards this story for anyone curious if it might be in their wheelhouse, it can best be summed up as a cross between Disney’s Onward meets the Transporter, with Donny Dahlia serving as our magical Jason Statham-esque hitman. There are just enough breadcrumbs to satisfy a wandering curiosity at the wider world outside the story’s focus. Corallo’s dialogue is well-written with the right clues that hit just as you’re wondering how this whole ordeal with the banished fairy king came to be. 
If there is one complaint to be had, it’s that there sometimes isn’t enough and some key factors seem left out about the world, the conflict, and the characters. In having this complaint about the complete series, I think I just wish there was more of it available, as I see the world as rich in storytelling possibilities and how the addition of more background material added through a few more issues might have served the team even better. However, with the six issues created, the team truly did make a complete tale worthy of the recognition. There exists the possibility to return for more, and it is an opportunity I hope they take.
Speaking again on the supernatural meets mundane aspect of the series, the art and colors by Milana do as much to build the world as the story itself. The effort is impressive due to what can only be imagined as insane scripts (in the best way possible!). The first two pages open on Dahlia skulking up to a seedy roadside motel on a job, only for a feral werewolf to burst through the door after him. What follows just on that sequence is more action culminating in a satisfying cold open for the series, setting the tone for what else is to come from both story and art. Working in tandem with Myers’ letters on the page, there is never a doubt about who’s speaking at any given time. The use of creative SFX on the page with each sequence are as much a set piece to the action as the actual art. Together, it is an additive reading experience that only serves to amplify enjoyment of the story. 
Distinct character designs seem to be Milana’s strength, as every time a new and important character takes the stage on a panel, they are instantly recognizable throughout the rest of the series. The fairy king’s regal dress, Donny’s laidback, no care in the world and tired of it all simple shirt and pants look, and Ryne’s cyborg assassin getup. Each stick with readers throughout the story. Milana’s talent for the blending of two distinct genres represented in the story are best encapsulated but the numerous splash pages, both single and double, found throughout the book. These sequences help show the scope of the conflict, the intensity and drive behind some character’s motivation and thirst for violence, and the near limitless magical skill possessed by some of the characters. All come together to give the book an overall unique look that lets it stand apart on the shelf and catch the eye.
Mad Cave’s trade collection design deserves some praise too. With Dahlia in the Dark, quality paper stock and a solid constructed cover let the collection stand apart on the shelf in a whole different way than I mentioned before. They feel sturdy in the hand that won’t see them tear if a read accidentally turns the page to forcefully in anticipation of what happens next. The use of different design pages to break up the story’s single issues are also impressive. They help serve as both a recap of the previous issue, and a tease of what’s to come in the next chapter. The backmatter of the collection consists of some character designs and the variant covers of the series when it was releases monthly.

Read a new entry in the Trade Rating series every Thursday at The Beat.

Dahlia in the Dark, Vol. 1 is available now.