Pullbox Reviews Darkest Route #1- A layered & emotionally driven supernatural tale

Darkest Rout is about a grief-stricken late-teenage boy from a rundown city who happens across a powerful ancient relic and reluctantly teams up with a self-seeking fallen angel and an audacious occultist to unravel a mysterious threat of demons in the region.

The struggle between forces of good & evil. You bet. Shiftless young lay about with a heart of gold. Check. Random discovery of a mystical relic. Yup, got it. Snarky crusader with an attitude fighting the good fight. Sure thing. All of that is here, but that’s not all that Darkest Route is.

By his own admission, Antwone Barnes uses personal loss to fuel this supernatural tale of the shadowy world behind our own. It was that heartfelt little rope-a-dope, not any supernatural action, that pulled me into his story. Darkest Route’s main character is Nate, a talented young artist who lost his footing in the world when his older brother passed away. His friends are trying to throw him a lifeline, but Nate’s not ready to catch it. That’s a feeling that many readers can understand, and Barnes harnesses it to beautiful effect here.

That still isn’t all that Darkest Route is. Along with Nate’s personal road… his route if you will… Barnes brings in Artewin, a fallen angel sentenced literally & metaphorically to life on Earth. He’s the world-weary cynic to play alongside Nate’s existential crisis. Barnes uses the meeting of the two to minimize a boring “info-dump”. Instead he lets events play out in the action as we learn about the “Knights of the Relic” along with Nate.

Still, it’s an origin issue that has to do a lot of world-building. The action is limited to just a couple scenes spread over the 70 or so pages, but what we get is pretty awesome. Artist Kip Henderson has a style that’s well suited to this stark and twisty tale. The main color palette stays pretty muted, so the rare bright flashes stand out (more on that in a bit). The impression I got is that Henderson is showing the world as it’s seen by the average work-a-day person… mostly dull. Those rare flashes highlight those moments we’ve all had, where we suddenly “see” something that was there the whole time.

Either that was intentional, or I might have stuff I need to work out.

Team Route doesn’t end there. There’s backup art handled by Omar Montoya, which can be found throughout the book, adding to but not working against the established style. That’s a tall order for an artist whose inclination is for their personal touches to stand out. Finally, rounding out the look of Darkest Route as the inker, colorist, & letterer is Bea McCormick. I will always sing the praise of a good letterer (which she is), but looking back at the way color is used in this comic I’m gonna have to say that McCormick’s work pays off. Tone and atmosphere are all-important for a comic like this, and much of that is found, not only in the colors, but also in the way they’re used.

Fans of emotionally layered supernatural stories with strong but flawed characters could do a lot worse than giving Darkest Route a look. As it builds its own mythology around the Knights of the Relic & their battle against the demonic forces that surround us, I can see it taking off in a big way. Perfectly suitable for teen readers, it has room to move and grow with an audience.

Final Score: 11/13

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