First published back in January of 1992, Dark Horse Comics’ graphic novel ‘Primal: From The Cradle To The Grave’ was collectively written by Clive Barker, D. G. Chichester and Erik Saltzgaber.  The graphic novel was followed on by two further ‘Primal’ comics - ‘Primal: Part I’ (1992) and ‘Primal: Part II’ (1992).

DLS Synopsis:
Back when primitive man was first learning to fight and fend for himself, a race known as ‘The Riven’ existed.  Back then, early man was more in tune to his psychological self.  More willing to listen to his inner self.  More receptive to the powers of fear.  And, all those thousands of years ago, early man fought back against the creatures of the Riven.  Brutally and ruthlessly banishing the race that embodied the very essence of fear.  And with The Riven gone, mankind was left to flourish.

But now, all those thousands of years later, and Professor Anthony Ferrel is on the brink of finding out the hidden depths lurking behind early man.  Convinced that the bones of these long dead ancestors of mankind still hold a residual memory of their lives, Ferrel goes against his superiors and smuggles out three of the universities specimens of primitive man’s skulls.  And alone in a small cabin in Maine, Ferrel starts his investigatory experiments.  Searching for a lingering memory locked away within the very fibres of the skulls.

Experiments, whose glimpsed success will eventually lead to much grandeur experiments performed in the name of the military.  Experiments that harbour man’s fear.  Hoping to unleash the secrets behind this elusive beast.  Secrets that could prove to be a devastating weapon.  But the Riven have been waiting for such a moment.  Trapped in an existence just outside of mankind’s reach, the soulless creatures have watched and waited for their chance to return.  And now that chance is finally here, and the first of their kind in a millennia has arrived...

DLS Review:
From the very beginning, the storyline feels disembodied and weirdly fragmented, with jumps in time as well as with the point of view, all pretty much unannounced and seemingly erratic in nature.  Surprisingly, this disorientating lack of identifiable structure seems to not only add another unnerving layer to the already eerily dark story, but begins to really screw with the reader’s head in a particularly fitting manner.

However, it’s not long before the reader gets the hang of how the storyline is dished out, and once this general acceptance of how the tale will unfold is established, the rest just spirals into a weird void of quietly chilling madness.

The pacing of the graphic novel is as disjointed and out-of-sync as the timeline of the tale is.  One moment it’s a slowly meandering glimpse over our odd scientists shoulder, and the next its adrenaline pumping violence from the days of primitive man.  Perhaps this strange fragmented delivery is down to the storyline having three separate writers?  Perhaps this was in fact the writers aim?  It certainly works on one level, but dramatically hinders the delivery of the story on another.

The artwork is however absolutely superb.  Perfectly fitting with the gritty and guttural storyline, John Van Fleet’s marriage of photography and watercolours (or at least that’s how I think he achieved the illustrative results) works absolute wonders in setting the right mood and atmosphere for this inherently psychological story.

All in all, the story is surprisingly slow-paced and plodding, whilst still weirdly erratic and disorientating.  Its strangeness works well with its dark and bleak appeal, but remains a difficult graphic novel for the reader to properly get into.

The graphic novel runs for a total of 64 pages.

© DLS Reviews

Other ‘Primal’ instalments:


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