First published back in May of 2015, Titan Comics’ graphic novel ‘The Evil Within’ formed the first volume in the graphic novel adaptation of the popular video game of the same name.  The graphic novel was written by Ian Edginton with artwork by Alex Sanchez and Ed Anderson and includes all four of the original comics collected into one complete volume.

DLS Synopsis:
Dana had been heading back home to her parents’ place in Pine Lakes on the West Coast when her car decided to pack in.  Outside the rain was beating a heavy tattoo on the dark, seemingly empty wilderness around her.  She had little to no idea of where she was.  Luckily, from across the way, she could just about make out a light shining through the woodland surrounding her.

Leaving the relative comfort of her car, Dana makes her way to the source of the light, hoping to find some help.  There she finds a small roadside diner and gas station.  But the place seems deserted.

That is, until she spots a cloaked figure outside, staring in at her.  The next thing she knows, her arm’s been grabbed by a man.  He’s panicked.  Desperately pleading with her to flee.  To leave where they are right that second.

Then she sees them.  The shuffling forms of the undead.  Sharp stakes of wood and solid steel poles protruding out from their flesh.  And they’re coming their way.  Reaching out for them.  Clawing to get to the unbroken flesh.

Just when it seems the two of them will be ripped apart by the marauding undead, Dana’s head fills with blinding lights and they’re suddenly somewhere else entirely.

They’re new location appears to be an old abandoned sanitarium.  Around them, numerous hospital beds line the walls.  Each one of the beds containing mutilated human remains.  And echoing through the haunting corridors they can hear the sound of scraping metal coming closer.

Luckily Dana isn’t alone in this nightmarish vision of hell.  Together with a few companions she finds along the way, they have no choice but to keep pushing onwards, through a twisted reimaging of hell, out-running and out-smarting each threat they encounter along the way, until they’re finally able to stand up to the traumas that have plagued them all their lives…

DLS Review:
I have to confess to having absolutely no idea about the original survival horror video game this graphic novel was adapted from.  I have zero interest in such things.  So this review is purely from the perspective of reading the graphic novel for what it is, with absolutely no comparison or link with the video game.

On the face of it ‘The Evil Within’ has all the potential for delivering one truly haunting and downright harrowing horror story.  Well-respected comic book writer Ian Edginton is the man behind the story.  It’s also got artwork by Alex Sanchez and Ed Anderson.  Furthermore, with a basic premise like the one we have here, the scope of delivering some properly grim-as-they-come horror is there for the picking.

Indeed, when glancing over the numerous pages of visceral gore as I flicked through the book for the first time, I was convinced that one hell of a dark and entertaining read was in front of me.  Alas, it wasn’t to be.
In fact, I’ve come away from the graphic novel more than a little disappointed.  As I said, all the right ingredients were in there, it’s just that Edington failed to pull it all together.

Characterisation – or more precisely, a serious lack of it – is one of the first problems you encounter with the story.  It’s incredibly hard to connect with any of the characters.  Immediately after reading the graphic novel, I still can’t remember the characters’ names, or much about any of them.  None of them have any defining features.  Our principal protagonist – Dana – might as well be ‘Bill from down the road’.  She’s been looking for her friend – Kate – who we find out was kidnapped a short while ago.  Edington attempts to illustrate the hurt felt by Dana at the loss of her friend (and gnawing guilt she still feels), but fails in any way to show anything but a surficial intention towards this.

Keeping the story ambiguous and wrapped in a fog of mystery is all well and good as long as (eventually) there’s some explanation behind it all.  Throwing in random zig-zags to the plot and leading us down a meandering pathway, is only going to annoy the reader if there’s not a clear reason for doing this.  Sadly the story fails quite spectacularly at giving the reader any sort of reasoning.  There’s a weak-as-my-mother’s-tea explanatory conclusion at the end, which is so utterly uninspired and cringe worthy that I’d recommend putting the book down a long time before this ‘wrapping up’ sequence gets underway.

The scenes of horror (which there are a lot of) might as well be paint-by-numbers horror from the noughties.  Indeed, every single threat, beastie or villain, might as well have been plucked straight from any number of horror films from that decade.  The closest we come to originality is with ‘The Keeper’ (I learnt his name from Googling ‘The Evil Within’).  For those not already familiar with this particular chap, the guy’s got what appears to be a metal safe for a head, he’s wearing an abattoir workers clothes, and he carries around with him a huge meat tenderizer wrapped in barbed wire.  Although, unfortunately the inclusion of the character is surprisingly limited considering the amount of exposure he has on the book’s cover.

I guess the big problem I have with the story is with its complete lack of any originality.  Everything’s just so formulaic.  It’s the same old tired and overly used sequences, woven together to create one utterly uninspired piece of horror fiction.  Furthermore, the story reads like it should’ve remained a game.  I can imagine being chased around this abandoned old asylum, with traps everywhere and badguys lurking around every other corner.  It would undoubtedly make for quite a good video game.  However, in graphic novel format it just feels far too orchestrated.  Yeah, scene after scene of adrenaline-pumping action can be fun to follow, but at least weave in some sort of storyline to keep our attention.  Otherwise the story just feels painfully flat (which I’m afraid this one does).

Another gripe I have is with the artwork.  Let’s face it, the artwork could have at least added a very rudimentary ‘gorehound’ element to the story.  Making it visceral and uncompromisingly brutal would at least have made it reasonably entertaining purely in a ‘gross out’ sort of way.  And from a quick skim through the book you think as a bare minimum it’s got this.  However, when you look closer, when you’re actually reading the damn thing, you find that pretty much all of the gruesome shit is just too damn simplicity drawn.  It’s possible the most hit and miss artwork in a horror graphic novel that I’ve ever encountered.  For the most part the basic drawing of the characters is of a reasonable standard.  But any element of gore seems to have been skimmed over.  It’s like the artist really didn’t want to get too involved with the gruesome stuff, so simply popped it in at the end without wanting to get their hands dirty.  A splash of red and we’re done, type of thing.

I hate ripping into work without offering up some complimentary words, but to be honest, any aspect in this graphic novel that didn’t out-and-out suck was just mediocre at best.  It’s horror like this that can lead to non-horror readers thinking the genre’s just a mindless, cheap-thrill form of lowbrow fiction.  Because that’s exactly what this offering is I’m sorry to say.

Oh well, I shan’t be picking up ‘The Evil Within: Volume Two’ (2017) anytime soon.

© DLS Reviews

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