Twisted Dark volume one is self-published comics writer Neil Gibson‘s first comic. An anthology of psychological thrillers, the book is bold, fresh, and seriously engrossing. Psychological thrillers aren’t totally unheard of in comics…  except that I can’t really think of any, at least none that aren’t also something else, like The Walking Dead. In a genre that often calls on big guns, magic, or aliens to get the adrenaline going, Gibson and his crew at T-Publications manage to pull off heart-stopping stories that are grounded in real human interaction and reality… the dark and messed up side of reality, of course.

In a field made up mostly of life-long die-hard fanboys, Gibson’s unique perspective may come from his unique career path to comics. Working as a management consultant (whatever that is), Gibson didn’t come around to reading comics until his twenties, a victim of the general perception of comics as “low-brow”.  But when he finally got his hands on Watchmen, he was an instant convert, and now he’s made it his mission not only to dive-in head first, but also to bring something new to comics in order to show skeptics just how versatile the medium is. Check out his interview over at Bleeding Cool for more of his ideas on that.

from "The Pushman" by Neil Gibson & Jan Wijngard
from “The Pushman” by Neil Gibson & Jan Wijngard

But beyond his non-traditional path to the field, Gibson also has a pretty non-traditional (and very geek outsider-y) production method for his comics. Having traveled around the world as a management consultant, he works with artists from around the world, featuring different artists for each story in Twisted Dark. The stories themselves occur all around the world from the U.K. to the Middle East to East Asia to South America, often offering up a dark look at the most pressing social issues in those areas, like labor rights in the United Arab Emirates, poverty in South India, drug-related violence in Colombia. But sometimes he just hones in on a small window into a single life in the vastness of rural Europe or on the platform of a train station in Japan.

I have to admit that when I first began reading Twisted Dark, I was a bit skeptical of the style. It’s very different than traditional comics, which rely more on dialogue, direct thought, or advancing the story through the image. Instead, Twisted Dark often uses a third person narration, with the dialogue and image bolstering and enriching the more simplistic narration. While initially surprising, this unique style is hardly halting. Even as I raised an eyebrow, I found that I couldn’t put it down!  The man has a talent for story. And the style really grew on me.

On top of that, Gibson is hardly limited to this particular style. In issue #1 of his mini-series Tabatha, Gibson shows off his strong grasp of the more traditional style and his dialogue chops, creating rich characters and establishing dynamic relationships as well as crafting a story that’ll leave you itching to know what happens next .

Tabatha #1

There’s a hint of Brubaker in it, and even a little early Brian Michael Bendis as Bleeding Cool’s Rich Johnston notes, but what Gibson has created is very much its own animal. Gibson has achieved something here that is a little weird, a lot of bold, and completely engrossing.  These dark stories stay with you, literally haunting you from story to story as characters reappear and their stories interconnect, becoming more and more dynamic and yet more shadowy as they descend further into their own darkness. You soon find yourself in a world where no one is really what they seem and anything can happen.

13 shade

Speaking of which, T-Publications just let it drop on their Facebook page that we’ll be seeing some familiar faces in Twisted Dark volume four…

Wolves pg 05