Review by Frank Plowright
On one level Twisted Dark Volume Six is another fine crime anthology with horrific overtones, yet more so than any of the previous volumes it’s now apparent that Neil Gibson is drawing connections between the characters in the assorted short stories he’s plotting. Almost every one of the eight stories presented connect either with another or with something found in an earlier volume, yet each can be read as an individual piece with no great loss. Looking for a theme? Well, pick one from gangsters or meat. An afterword confirms the bigger picture, Gibson now considering Season One drawn to a close.
Not for the first time Gibson’s introduction makes for interesting reading. There are people who read Twisted Dark unable to separate the views of a story character from Gibson’s own. No wonder psychotherapist Candice Toplaghatsian features twice. Do they also think Gibson keeps a lion in his basement and feeds it local troublemakers? That features in a return visit to Latin American ganglord El Nudillo, and is one of several stories where meat features as a theme. Nudillo is the nearest to a lead character featuring in three stories, in each of them an absolutely merciless control freak. That’s another theme actually, as Clare’s boyfriend is one of those guys eventually jailed for stalking, unable to accept their partner is loyal without continually checking up on them. That story is disturbing enough, but Clare’s second appearance is the psychological triumph, raising the disturbance to an altogether different level.
It’s one of several artistic contributions from Caspar Wijngaard. If there’s a theme to Twisted Dark beyond the linked stories it’s how the anthology charts Wijngaard’s artistic progression. He contributed to the first volume back in 2011 as a promising artist already able to work in different styles, but with a few rough edges. Were he not credited, you’d think his various pieces here the work of at least two different artists. Besides the two pages used as samples, he uses other styles, and they’re now fully realised, the storytelling and figurework consistent. Jim Terry’s also excellent. Leonardo Gonzalez has the artistic talent, but his layouts could be more interesting, while Jan Wijngaard’s figures are stiff. This volume’s artistic debutant is Marc Olivent, who’s at the stage Wijngaard was at the start. He’s good at designing a page and telling a story, and isn’t afraid to try changing his style, but the figures and expressions need work.
Gibson’s been a persuasive story spinner from day one, and continues to display a creative perversity. Anyone who likes their crime with a twist of horror should investigate. They might also like to investigate www.tpub.co.uk, where a few extra Twisted Dark pieces are to be found.