By Phil Hester (Writer), Michael Broussard (Pencils), Ryan Winn (Inks), and Benny Fuentes (Colors)

Some Thoughts Before The Review: I bailed on the third volume of The Darkness following the end of the first story arc. And to be honest, I’m not entirely sure why. Maybe it was the different art team or perhaps it was the less than engaging previews I had checked out. Whatever the reason, I decided to jump back on board after the series hit number seventy five and celebrated with a one-shot that offered up a pretty compelling glimpse of a possible future for the Top Cow universe.

The Story: While attempting to walk away from the Sovereign’s orders, Jackie Estacado falls under the spell of a beautiful woman with a red ribbon in her hair. Jackie quickly finds out that there’s more to the woman than meets the eye, and he finds out that there is quite a bit he has yet to learn about the legacy of the Darkness. And it could cost him his life.

What’s Good: For an extremely fast read, The Darkness #76 does quite a few things right. The artwork, though not without flaws, is pretty quite striking at times and does a nice job of visually carrying the story forward when there is little dialogue or narration to help out. The woman’s red ribbon is particularly worthy of note because Michael Broussard and his team do a great job of making it stand out in any panel it’s present in. And the effect helps to create a sense of uneasiness about both the woman and the desperation that drives Jackie toward his destination. As for the writing, Phil Hester effectively adds wrinkles to both the mythology of the Darkness and the character of Estacado. While the conflicted anti-hero is something of a cliché (and has been for some time), Estacado manages to remain compelling regardless of the baggage that the characters of his type tend to carry.

What’s Not So Good: While I didn’t feel ripped off, there is no denying how quick the latest issue of The Darkness ended. Whole pages went by without any dialogue, which really accentuated the inconsistent (sometimes silly) visuals. I mean, Jackie Estacado’s face seemed to change repeatedly throughout the book. At times, his particular case of moody angst seems to give him pouty Angelina Jolie lips. As it turns out, the unintentional hilarity really breaks the somber tone Hester and company seem to be going for.

Conclusion: While the wonky artwork proves at times, distracting, it doesn’t hurt the quality of an otherwise enjoyable comic too much. There is something about the fairly simple story and effective use of color that kept me glued to the pages. It definitely could have been better, but nonetheless, I liked it well enough.

Grade: B-

-Kyle Posluszny