Review by Ian Keogh
College freshman Zoey Aarons has a problem. She kills people. Once shy and uncomfortable, she discovered an inner confidence through what may or may not be an internally created persona, one with whom she argues in the mirror, and sometimes releases. One of the occasions the other personality emerges is during the phone-in advice show Zoey hosts for the college radio station.
Larime Taylor builds an interesting world for Zoey. What under less sympathetic hands would be exploitative and voyeuristic is instead almost fascinating at times, but very much a prolonged tease with little pay-off. It’s very rare that Zoey doesn’t feature in a scene, and the plot is underscored with her personal observations, largely diary entries, as she attempts to reconcile what she’s become with an otherwise placid and caring nature. At its best there’s a compelling narrative tension, and at its worst there’s a feeling of being lectured about all that’s bad concerning personal interactions. Taylor’s underlying mission is to highlight the effect of bullying and other abusive behaviour that targets individuals, which is very worthy, but he needed some input about when to stop preaching.
Taylor’s art is very design influenced, with Patrick Nagel seemingly a touchstone. His panels consist almost exclusively of delicately drawn, super attractive people, but that’s a surface gloss as the cast are posed, and no matter how well drawn they lack any real character. It’s very rare that you can tell anyone’s emotional state from the illustrations alone.
The longer A Voice in the Dark continues, the more Taylor loses sight of his interesting starting premise. Many pages are occupied with discussion, either Zoey’s classes or with her flatmates, and Taylor lets these run far longer than they should in what’s intended as entertainment, the need to make a point trumping the plot every time. Despite the lack of control when it comes to contraction, Taylor is good enough at building Zoey’s personality that in places she’s interesting enough to drag us through the dull sections. In others, she’s not. It’s not until the final chapter that she really cuts loose, and by then it’s too little, too late, and A Voice in the Dark has become an exercise in what might have been rather than a killer graphic novel. A sequel was planned, but only two parts of an intended five were published, so the subtitle of Volume One proved optimistic.