Wednesday, 23 January 2013

Review – Darwin’s Diaries 1: The Eye of the Celts

01 - The Eye of the CeltsDarwin’s Diaries 1:The Eye of the Celts

Eduardo Ocana
Sylvain Runberg

At its heart, Darwin’s Diaries has a very interesting concept; what would happen if Charles Darwin, the man who bought us the Theory of Evolutuion and one of the world’s most forward thinking naturalists, was exposed to fantastical beasts that did not fit into his natural order? 

Victorian England. In Yorkshire, several men and horses working on a railway line have been killed—slaughtered, really. The police suspect some kind of wild beast. The government calls upon controversial naturalist Charles Darwin to help with the investigation. A reasonable move, but one that is dictated rather by the least known part of his work: research on what other people would qualify as legendary creatures. It won’t be long before the scientist discovers that he may be right about them after all…

Eduardo Ocana’s artwork is very evocative of the time and he manages to capture Victorian England exceptionally well, and the colouring of Tariq Bellaoui - who does a great job of giving the images depth - helps this. There’s a sense of dim, muted light cast over everything. The artwork is incredibly good and manages to convey the era extremely effectively; for example, on page nine there’s a panel that depicts two men talking in a meeting room and you can see the length of the room to the windows, the wall coverings, the table covered in a cloth, the bookcases, the tiled floor, the paintings… in this one image it captures the period and transports you into the story. It’s also gory when it needs to be without being gratuitous, and the images are suitably disturbing. The action scenes are full of dynamism, and there are several frames that really capture speed and movement. It’s very impressive and leaves a satisfyingly exhilarated feeling when the moment has passed.

Sylvain Runberg’s writing is what I’ve come to expect from him – excellent. The characters have depth, the dialogue is sharp and flows naturally and, even though there’s a slightly predictable feisty female character that’s independent and forthright in this world of Victorian stiffness controlled by men, the characters are well developed and interesting. The story is carried completely by the dialogue so there’s no narration to consider, and that’s fine as the dialogue is very good and even reads as you would imagine them talking in the Victorian period – parts of it read like a Charles Dickens story. The primary character, Charles Darwin, is the most interesting of the lot, of course, and as the story progresses you realise that he’s nothing like what you expected. In fact, the things he does later on in the story downright surprised me but I shan’t ruin that for you here. Fair to say that, even though the plot doesn’t progress very much in this first volume, the story will keep you intrigued and wanting more.

This is an excellent piece of work that I can highly recommend.

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