A Voice In The Dark #1: Killer On The Radio
A Voice in the Dark #1 grabbed me with its cover, a blood-spattered radio station. I was a radio DJ in a time long gone, and I'm a fan of Eric Bogosian's Talk Radio – I played several of those voices in the dark, actually – and so I was hoping for some kind of interesting music-related comic about the amateur broadcasting life. Perhaps it says something about me that I focused more on the radio part than the blood part.
Larime Taylor's black-and-white Top Cow book focuses on Zoey Aarons, an 18-year-old girl moving from Seattle to California to start her studies at Blair College. She has the typical problems of suddenly living with a trio of close-knit strangers as a freshman, but with the added problem of being 74 days removed from murdering someone – and she has audible conversations with her reflection in the mirror, as well as referring to we, the readers, as her "dear diary" – and she looks at that heinous act like it's part of an addiction she will need to feed soon. Not exactly conducive to socializing. By all outward appearances, though, she's just kind of this quiet, sullen A-student type, and her big idea about self-therapy is to host a campus radio show (call letters: K-I-L-L, natch) called "Voices in the Dark," where people can call-in and anonymously share their darkest problems. Maybe, she hopes, that letting her killer side out of her head in the privacy of a dark room will help lessen her need to kill again.
To be fair, the girl she killed is someone who nearly drove her friend (and now adopted younger sister) Seven (Hi, Blossom… or should I say 'Bloom'?) to suicide by outing her as a lesbian to her school and her hardline parents, who then disowned her. That said, her morality remains questionable, because she also daydreams of strangling Jill, her chipper boss at the radio station for giggling a little too much. She also imagines driving an x-acto knife through the forehead of a mouthy girl in her Ethics class, but I think we've all wanted to do awful things to wrong-headed jerks in classes before. Also, her uncle is apparently one of the best detectives in the world, and he lives in her new town, so that's an added wrinkle.
So it's kind of like Frasier and Dexter had a baby and it was a comic book about a bi-racial teenager, although Taylor stresses in the afterword that he's looking to go in different directions, and his killer's gender is part of that. What's also revealed there is that Taylor suffers from Arthrogryposis, which means he manages to write and draw the entire book with his mouth, which makes his consistency with differentiating the faces of his characters – and the whole project, really – even more impressive. Taylor's style is very obviously influenced by Terry Moore of Strangers in Paradise and he makes no secret of it – not that there's any reason to – and that comes across in both artistic style and the general tone of the first issue. It took me a while to get into his general dialogue and pacing, but that could be a factor of how inundated my comic-brain is with capes and slam-bang fighty-fighty stuff as much as anything.
Overall, A Voice in the Dark blends the killing of people with the coming of age and the slicing of life. The first issue sets up the players in what's sure to be an unsettling game. It's taking its time unfolding, with a mild undercurrent of tension that's sure to ratchet up quickly as we watch a person who wants to kill people dealing with a caller who wants to kill herself, which is where the first issue leaves us. It could become something very compelling once it gets its legs.