Title: Dark One
Created and Story by: Brandon Sanderson
Drawn by: Nathan Gooden
Written by: Jackson Lanzing and Collin Kelly
Colors by: Kurt Michael Russell
Letters by: Andworld Design
Published: June 25, 2020
Publisher’s Summary: Some worlds are made to be broken. Paul Tanasin is a young man haunted by visions of a dark and fantastic world―visions he initially believes are hallucinations. But when he discovers they are prophecies from Mirandus, a world in which he’s destined to become a fearsome destroyer, he’ll have to embrace the fear, rise up as the Dark One, and shatter everything. Dark One examines the dual roles we often take on in life—the ability to be a savior as well as a destroyer.
Duality is a concept that’s made itself very comfortable in fantasy stories. Good and evil, light and dark, this perpetual opposition of forces has been subverted and deconstructed to death over and over again, so much so that it doesn’t even feel like a cliche – it’s just a part of stories as a whole, the only difference being how little or how much they choose to focus on it.
Brandon Sanderson chooses to go all in; Dark One, the first of a series of graphic novels envisioned by the fantasy author of Mistborn and Wheel of Time fame, seeks to break the cycle with its own fresh outlook on tried-and-true tropes of the genre by enhancing their importance to the utmost. The collaboration between Sanderson’s concept and the Lanzing/Kelly writing team bringing it to life has created the fantasy series to watch from here on out. Dark One is a story drenched in duality: taking place across two worlds and opposing ideologies, the mythos of the Destined One, champion of Light, and his eternal opposer, the titular Dark One, is offset by a story taking place in our own world, following a confused young boy named Paul. Dark One continually makes use of tropes and common themes by integrating a mixing of the mundane and mystical with Earth and the world of Mirandus, as well as a story about destiny itself.
Even the belief system within the world of Mirandus is a meta-commentary: called “The Narrative”, the inhabitants of the world believe everything to be tied to this force’s design, such as how good will triumph over evil, much like how the average reader also has foregone conclusions while reading particular stories. Dark One plays with this ideology immediately by shifting perspective, giving us both confused protagonist Paul’s take on the struggle between Dark and Light as well as the views of the world’s own inhabitants, like the feeble Drull and fiery Feotora to offset his role as audience surrogate, even if the pacing tends to move lightning-fast. What follows is a story that is both foreign and familiar, and tells an immensely enjoyable story while still remaining unexpected and new.
The art is also spectacular, as Nathan Gooden’s dynamic line work alongside Kurt Michael Russell’s incredible coloring brings each page to life, as well as their action and wide shots being nothing short of breathtaking. The landscapes look incredible, the fights are iconic, and the character designs pay homage to familiar looks and themes while still making them all their own. Dark One is fantasy pop art at its finest, with its own unique aesthetic to boot.
Brandon Sanderson’s Dark One is an exercise in managing expectations, leading the reader to rethink what they know and love about fantasy stories in order to enjoy a story that both perfectly captures and totally swerves common cliches and storytelling staples.