Advance Review: Entering the Disney World from Hell In `Dark Ride’ #1

by Tom Smithyman

Overview

This new series is off to a chillingly great start. It’s a straightforward idea done very, very well. The issue strikes the right balance of horror without too much gore. And while it deals with dark subject matter, it doesn’t take itself too seriously. Dark Ride is a great ride.

Overall
9/10
9/10

With rides named Devil’s Due, Murder Mountain, Cannibal Café and Tunnel of Lovecraft, it’s pretty clear that that the amusement park in Dark Ride is a far cry from Disney World or SeaWorld. But what would you expect with a name like Devil Land?

Writer Josh Williamson chillingly delivers the origin –at least partly – of this Six Flags Over Hell in the first few pages. Failed ride designer Arthur Dante creates an attraction so scary that no theme part wants to include it for fear of terrorizing their guests. Dante’s wife berates him as a failure, and the designer quickly hits his breaking point – along with her skull. As he buries her in the desert just outside Las Vegas, a voice from below offers a deal to Dante. (With a name like that, how could he refuse?)

Flash forward a few decades and Devil Land park is drawing thousands of horror fans every day. There’s a statue of Dante and his mascot Danny D. Evil (Williamson is clearly not going for subtlety here) adorning the park, just like the Walt Disney and Mickey Mouse statue in Orlando’s Magic Kingdom. Dante is now a recluse, leaving his son to run the park.

Much of the story is told through the eyes of new park employee Owen Seasons, a horror fan who has landed his dream job. It turns out that dream is really a nightmare though. While he dominates the premiere issue, don’t expect to see much of Seasons in the future. The ride isn’t called Devil’s Due for nothing.

Williamson’s script is everything you’re looking for in a series’ first issue. There’s the right amount of exposition without getting bogged down. There’s drama, mystery and plenty of conflict. And for a horror series, there’s plenty of chills while the gore is kept to a minimum.

Artist Andrei Bressan clearly had fun designing a horror-based theme park from scratch. A massive guillotine, an oversized Cthulhu and a haunted forest all lead up to a dark castle where Cinderella’s castle would be in the Disney version of this park. Of note is Bressan’s black-and-white drawings during the flashback to Dante’s wife’s murder. Those pages perfectly set up the rest of the story. In fact, he did them so well, you wonder if he should have stuck to that monotoned look for the entire issue.

The series concept seems to be a pretty simple idea – a Faustian bargain centered around a theme park. But the combination of a strong script and strong visuals elevate the first issue – and likely the entire series – to the next level. Or, in this case, circle of Hell.

Dark Ride #1 will be available for purchase on October 5, 2022.

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