Review by Ian Keogh
Charles Darwin has been sent to Yorkshire in 1870 to investigate both men and animals being killed by a savage beast. His presence hasn’t prevented further deaths. On one level Sylvain Runberg’s ending to Death of a Beast was certainly a surprise. It was also more than faintly ridiculous in its recasting of what Darwin was. As Darwin’s investigations haven’t stopped the killings, a noted hunter has been sent for.
This concluding chapter concerns itself less with shrouded mystery than with overt consequence, and after the discipline of the previous two books it provides artist Eduardo Ocaña a greater chance to shine. The supernatural is now revealed, and he draws some great monster panels in addition to his morose or scowling Darwin.
Unfortunately, it doesn’t compensate for a ridiculous plot that calls on Darwin to be something completely different from his historical personality. While not wanting to give anything away, equivalents would be Jack the Ripper selling girl scout cookies and tending to the infirm on his days off from ripping, or Queen Victoria personally leading the Charge of the Light Brigade. While speculative historical fiction isn’t to be dismissed as a genre, surely a foundation stone is that there be some reason beyond sensationalism for alterations to a known personality. With Darwin, there isn’t, and the feeling from the previous book that Runberg would have more usefully have constructed his own leading character persists. There is an attempt to theorise about Darwin regarding what prompted his investigations into evolution, but it’s clumsy and unconvincing, and Darwin’s Diaries deteriorates further via a gaping plot hole. He’s revealed by the highly attuned senses of another, but that person could have also revealed the true villains of the piece long before Darwin’s arrival in York. Further disappointing is the predictable misogyny at the heart of the story.
Dual Nature is ultimately disappointing and silly, but at least Ocaña finally shines.