The Dark One graphic novel by Vault Comics came out on ebook on the 26th. This story is not a cosmere story, so there hasn't been too much hype in the fandom on this one. Perhaps you're waiting for the hardcover (which comes out in August). Maybe you've been burned by the White Sand graphic novels, which could never reach their full potential because the story wasn’t written for a visual format to begin with. Even then, I wouldn't say a cosmere fan has to read White Sand. It's mediocre at best. So, on that level, I can see anyone being apprehensive about another graphic novel.
Let's cut to the chase: is Dark One worth getting? Yes. I wholeheartedly recommend it, and I'm almost surprised to say so!
I always have a personal issue getting into new stories, even if it's from an author I love. There's just a big inertia for me against reading new stuff. You have to get invested in new characters and a new setting. It's easy for me to put a book down. I'm not sure I would have picked up Dark One rapidly unless it was for this site, if I'm being honest. Maybe you have the same problem on getting into something new, or maybe you're worried about another Brandon graphic novel that isn't great. But everyone: Dark One is definitely worth your money. The art is excellent and the story has interesting twists and turns with the hallmarks you'd expect from Brandon, like clever worldbuilding and plot. It's a quick read, even though it's 200 pages long, and now that I'm done, I'm very invested in this universe and I can't wait to see what's next.
Dark One is tailor-made for the graphic novel medium, unlike White Sand which started as a prose novel, and you can see how much of a difference it makes. Characters are introduced briskly with their motivations established immediately, so you're never confused as to why anyone is doing something. The art has a lot of color and diversity, communicating in a panel or two far more than pages of dialogue or thoughts in prose could. There is worldbuilding in the art, if you're paying attention. It's put together in a wonderful, clever way that I think really shows what graphic novels can do.
The world has some standard fantasy tropes, a Dark One rising and a Destined One fated to meet them, but there's this undercurrent of the Narrative which drives the machinations. Some characters chaff at the Narrative and its designs, and some work against it, even though its said to be futile. It's pretty cool, and it harkens back to Brandon playing with those ideas of prophecy and the foretold hero back in Mistborn Era 1, which I always thought was fun and there are so many ways those fantasy tropes can be used. You'd be surprised at how much depth in the worldbuilding there is, with single lines holding a lot of implications for the past and the future.
If you didn't know, Dark One is a portal fantasy story, where our main character, Paul, comes from Earth and he's transported to a fantastical world (Mirandus), where he becomes the prophesied Dark One. This isn't a premise that gets me too excited on paper, but in application it is executed wonderfully well here. Both Earth and Mirandus matter, and their connections are part of the intrigue. Really, all of the story just feels smooth in a way that I didn't expect.
The plot moves exceptionally quickly. I think part of this is that it is a graphic novel, where we don't need to spend time on establishing shots because we can simply do a two-page spread on a new locale and call it good. I love tightly plotted stories, so this worked great for me. The ending is quite a Sanderson avalanche, and it might feel too quick to some, but I enjoyed it a lot. There are two twists in particular that I found extremely clever and I absolutely loved it. I'm a guy who loves my sweet endings, and I am a very happy camper with Dark One.
Now, you need to know that this is the first book in a series of graphic novels (I believe three of them). This graphic novel does have a satisfying conclusion, but I also need the next things in the series immediately. I wouldn't say this is a "standalone" per se. Still, I think you'll be satisfied with this first one, but I sure hope we can get more of these quickly. I do not want to have to wait twelve months for each installment.
That's about it. It's tough for me to get into new stories, but Dark One hooked me very effectively and I am now super invested in this universe. When Dark One was announced, it was said to be a multimedia project with a graphic novel, TV show, podcast, and novels. We already got hints of audio originals for Dark One, and I couldn't be happier. More please!
One last thing: if you're trying to get friends or family into Brandon books, but the long novels are a harder sell, this might be a great place for them to start.
Thoughts from Others at 17th Shard:
I finally feel like I understand the difference between a comic book and a graphic novel. [Dark One definitely felt like a novel to me, key scenes were given room to breathe, and the characters and the world alike had depth to them. Probably my favorite thing about the entire graphic novel is how real most of the characters feel - like real people, with real motivations, and no easy “good” or “evil” label being applicable to them. But the art is also really neat, and the visual language is strong and consistent, and… I guess the rest is spoilers. But I would absolutely recommend this!
Dark One was a highly anticipated graphic novel for me because I saw the potential for a visual accompaniment to Brandon Sanderson's writing. Because the story was written for the medium, I feel like the worldbuilding and character development was enhanced by the artwork rather than just illustrated. The artists' use of color and dramatic framing really immersed me into the world of Mirandus and the minds of the characters. The story is truly epic in scale, and even though it is in a less wordy format, fans of Sanderson's prose will not find the story lacking in lore and depth.
Last weekend we got so excited about Dark One that we recorded two Shardcasts on it. The more we discussed, the more we realized how much depth was there. Our first one will be out Friday!
Edited by Chaos