Simon Dark #1 (2007)

Simon Dark #1 (December, 2007)

“What Simon Does”
Writer – Steve Niles
Artist – Scott Hampton
Letters – Todd Klein
Colors – Chris Chuckry
Assistance Editor – Stephanie Buscema
Editor – Joey Cavalieri
Cover Price: $2.99

This is one of those books that I remember actually buying.  I was checking out with my normal weekly stack, and the fella behind the counter recommended it… saying it would be like The Crow.  I guess my indifference caught him off guard (I’ve never seen or read anything related to The Crow), so because kinda spun into “hard sell mode”.  Telling me I really didn’t wanna miss out on this one, because he felt it was going to be the next big thing.

At the time I was doing comic reviews at my old blog (which I’m currently scouring for anything that may have held up), so I figured “What the heck?”… I picked it up, and after working my way through my pile of books… I finally checked out Simon Dark.  Following my normal synopsis-section, I’m going to include my original review from late 2007, and follow that up with my current thoughts and see if there has been any change in my opinion.

We open on the remains of a Gotham City church.  Two blindfolded men are being marched toward it by a group of characters wearing balaclavas.  We appear to be in the midst of a ritualistic murder.  The two fellas are lined up, and one of the masked men is set to put a bullet in the back of each of their heads.

He’s able to fire off one shot before a curious individual enters the scene.  He is wearing a patchwork mask, a red and black striped shirt, and a tattered trench coat.  Why he waited until one of the murders was able to take place is unknown… I guess he draws the line at two.  He leaps over the gunman and produces a sort of garrote and decapitates him with precision.

The balaclava boys are all chased off, and our man helps the surviving captive to his feet.  His savior asks for a reward of food, and so he empties his wallet.  Our patchwork fellow is the star of this series, he is Simon Dark.

We shift scenes to a bit later.  The coroner’s wagon is en route to the dilapidated church.  Inside is medical examiner, Beth Granger.  Upon arrival, both bodies are discovered.  The first with a bullet lodged in the back of its head, the other whose decapitation is so cleanly done that it is assumed to have been done with a buzz saw.

Beth is chatted up by a detective with whom she she seems to share a mutual attraction.  Her dedication to her duty precludes her from exploring those feelings more freely.  The ‘Tec informs her that the headless fella went by the name of Richard Guest, a software executive worth millions.

As the meat wagon pulls away, Granger overhears the nearby children singing a nursery rhyme about a protector who hides in the park… who goes by the name of Simon Dark.  This song appears to follow her all the way back into the city proper, and into a local convenience store.  The cashier tells her to pay it no mind, as it’s just a silly song the neighborhood kids made up.

We shift again to an unmarked moving truck.  Inside are a father and daughter who are new to Gotham.  The girl doesn’t seem to be all that fond of her new city, but does mention that the burned-down church they passed was “kinda cool”.  They reach their destination, and begin to move their belongings inside.  Atop a pile of books is Tales of Mystery and Imagination by Edgar Allan Poe.  From off panel, a gloved hand swipes it… and leaves a buck in its stead.

In a darkened mansion a group of (presumably evil) older men are convening.  The news of the day is the death of Richard Guest… and the odd freak that did him in.  One of the underlings takes full responsibility, and promises to make things right.  His bargaining chip… is his life.

We finally return to Simon, and observe him creeping through the (at the moment unattended) convenience store.  He picks up assorted sundries including some kitty chow, and leaves a wad of cash on the counter before being nearly discovered.

Simon returns to the church, where he’s apparently made his home.  He hops down, feeds his cat, and begins reading his newly found book.

Original Review (dated 10/16/2007):

Rounding out this week’s reviews is a book featuring a BRAND-NEW character in the DC Universe… Simon Dark.  Simon Dark #1 is by Steve Niles and features art by Scott Hampton.  This book became my “bottom of the pile book” after I flipped thru it, and saw that it may be a chore to get through.  Not that it looked bad, necessarily… it, just looked like a book that I’d try-out, and never pick up again.  This book featured several elements I don’t exactly dig. Elements that I’m not entirely sure are elements, however, are things I feel are cliche. 

For example, a Gothic character reading out of an Edgar Allen Poe book.  A lead character who is shown brutally killing someone in the beginning of the chapter, and then gently feeding a cat at the end.  Then, quite possibly my least favorite comic book storytelling tool of the past decade… the “man on the street” point of view. It was fun when it wasn’t done as often… but, now if it isn’t a Police Officer’s point of view, it’s a Newspaper Writer’s… if it’s not a Newspaper Writer’s, it’s an EMT’s… I understand what it’s trying to accomplish… establish a bit of a character menagerie, and add a bit to the story at large… but, it just feels so contrived. 

Expository dialogue and all. I’d be remiss not to mention, the one bit that I really had a hard time swallowing… The fact that this book is based in Gotham City, features ritualistic murders… and there was no sight or mention of, uh, I dunno… Batman!  I’m hoping that Batman’s non-appearance in this issue (and maybe arc/series as a whole), is something that will be addressed.  Like, maybe Batman knows of this Simon Dark, and is watching him from off-panel. As for Simon himself… he’s pretty much, just there.  This issue, at least for me… seemed to showcase more the feel of this neck of Gotham than the Simon character himself.  I think I’ll try to stick with this book thru it’s opening arc.  I certainly enjoyed the artwork, though… muddy and dark, fully fitting the mood… and the Simon design is fantastic… there’s almost a familiar feel to him, while at the same time, he looks completely new.

2016 Revisit:

Upon reflecting on my earlier review (from almost a decade ago… where does the time go?) I think I may have been a tad unfair.  What I held against it was really my failing to see the forest for the trees.  Being as though this was set in Gotham, I automatically assumed it would be at least somewhat in the “shadow of the bat”.  In rereading I see how bad an idea that would have been.  Simon Dark is its own animal, it doesn’t need any Bat-character cameos or lore.

I feel I mistook character introductions for an enforced “point of view” tool.  I’m really unsure where my head was at back in 2007… perhaps I’d just read one of those horrendous Frontline minis from Marvel and triggered some Post-Boring-Story-Device-Stress.  The side characters introduced here did not overstay their welcome, and make me wonder how all of their disparate worlds would collide in the coming chapters.

My only real complaint would be how little screen time Simon gets… and even that, I can appreciate why they chose to keep him somewhat scarce.  To me, it’s a sign of a good story and a captivating character when I’m really curious and anxious to know more about him right off the bat.

Some things from the first review that I maintain… I still really dig the art.  It fits the tone of this book perfectly.  Also, I still feel as thought him reading the Poe book is a little bit too “cute”… and the juxtaposition between the precise murder and lovingly feeding his cat feels a little bit played.  It reminds me of a scene in a mafia movie where the “Big Boss” is crying during his daughter’s dance recital, and meanwhile his “boys” are offing some poor fool.  Like, we get it… he’s got layers.

I don’t head a whole lot about this (good or bad) online… but I feel it’s definitely worth checking out.  It’s not available digitally, however the entire run has been collected in three volumes.  As of this writing, Instocktrades has all three available for under $10 apiece.  If you’re looking for something a bit different that still takes place in the (pre-Flashpoint) DC Universe, you can do far worse than Simon Dark.

Interesting Ads:

I remember this one being scrutinized for hints like mad around this time!
Such a disappointment…

0 thoughts on “Simon Dark #1 (2007)

  • The Crabby Reviewer

    I was always tempted to buy this, because of the art, but my hatred for Steve Niles, mercifully, made me never take the plunge. The man is, IMHO, a terrible writer. He can come up with some good hooks (30 DAYS OF NIGHT), but the execution is always bland, mediocre, and forgettable.

    Good review(s), though.

    • 30 Days of Night to me was one of those really solid ideas that I couldn't believe nobody had come up with… that said, it's been on my "to read" pile for about 15 years.

      Never got around to it, probably due to it being a "Wizard" book… and all of the "reviews" it got were about 95% "Hey look, this comic is about to become a movie!!! Optioned for $1M!!!" and about 5% "is it any good?"

      Not sure I'll ever get around to it… and from your comments I don't think I'm missing all that much. That said, Simon Dark (at least for the first issue) was a pretty decent read. It's a mainstay in the cheap-o's (at least around here), maybe snag it for two-bits.


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