I have an active confession to make: I sometimes like reading campy stories and watching TV shows that have come before my generation. I’ve marathoned episodes of “I Love Lucy”, “Leave it to Beaver,” “Lassie,” the original “Fugitive” and “The Man from UNCLE” and even “Dragnet” (I blame one of my former high school teachers for Dragnet, though I did see the 80s movie with Dan Ackroyd and Tom Hanks).
Suffice to say, even with my love for old movies and T.V. shows, I’ve never heard of Dark Shadows. Never at least until I picked up this particularly short novel (or novella – I think it might classify). That prompted a discussion with my parents, who told me they watched the original series eagerly when they were younger. So, naturally, now I’m curious about it and its adaptations. I didn’t even know there was a remake in the 90s for it – which from what little I’ve seen of it, has a young Joseph Gordon Levitt and has kind of this odd “Twin Peaks” vibe about it. And I’ve heard about the recent movie adaptation that’s coming up with Tim Burton and Johnny Depp collaborating.
But on the subject of the book – it’s a one-shot paranormal story with some added extras within the work about the original 1966-71 TV series. My guess is that this particular story is one of the lost stories and an off-shoot of the original storyline. It has the primary character, Barnabas, stuck in a rather precarious situation. From the story events, he used to be a vampire, confined to the punishment by one witch named Angelique, but he’s somehow free and living in fear of plunging “his soul to darkness” again. But even in the midst of those fears, he comes across the corporeal ghost Annabella, who recruits his help in finding her beloved, Michael. Thus begins his warping trip through time to help Annabella, but it doesn’t come without problems – an evil witch who’s manipulating Michael’s soul, and some angry townspeople who are quick to jump on a witchhunt. Question is if Barnabas can stop the witch, free Michael and Annabella from her influence, without subjecting himself to his old fears. That…you’ll have to read the book for.
A few things – the compilation by D.J. Arneson seems quite good, though I’ll admit the story shows its age, both in the writing and in the art style of the illustrations. I would gather that those that loved the first series, or can appreciate the elder style of the comic art would probably find something to like with this. As for the story – it’s simple and a quick read. While I wasn’t completely enamored with it, it entertained me. It’s a bit campy with heavy amounts of cheese, particularly in the character’s assertions of “I must do this” or “I can’t” and “Oh I have failed, but no, I must survive!”
But you know what? I don’t mind it that much, really. And well enough, I liked following Barnabas through the progressive uncovering of events (just about as much as I like his name – it’s kind of cool to say in a dramatic flare – but I digress.) For a new reader, my concern is you’re not going to get a lot of character background or development here – which is what I was kind of thrown into when I read this, but I think it encouraged me to look more into the “Dark Shadows” universe, enough to where I would like to get to know Barnabas more and see his character develop, even if it’s in expanded one-shot stories.
Overall score: 3/5
Note: I received this as an ARC from NetGalley, from the publisher Hermes Press.