Although his powers lie in the shadows, Top Cow’s The Darkness is no stranger to the spotlight when it comes to comics or video games. After the success of the first The Darkness video game by 2K Games in 2007, the video game publisher and Top Cow are coming back for more with a sequel on October 4, 2011. But before that happens, Top Cow is releasing a comic that will bridge the gap between the two games’ stories and also act as an ideal first step into The Darkness’ world.
Coming out tomorrow as Top Cow’s Free Comic Book Day offering, The Darkness II: Confession acts as a prequel to the upcoming game as Jackie Estacado tries to come to terms with the murder of his girlfriend and all that’s happened to him over the course of his life. The inaugural video game showed crime lord Jackie Estacado using the powers of the Darkness to revenge the murder of his girlfriend, Jenny. In The Darkness II, an unprovoked attacked on his life pushes the Darkness out of the shadows and onto the offensive while Jackie rushes to find out who tried to kill him and what’s really going on with his powers. The comic The Darkness II: Confession features art by long-time Top Cow artist Michael Broussard and a script by both Filip Sablik and Matthew Hawkins.
As we’re only hours away from thousands of comics fans getting a free copy of this (and countless other comics), we talked with co-writer and publisher Filip Sablik to find out more.
Newsarama: What can you tell us about the story of The Darkness II: Confession, Filip?
Filip Sablik: The Darkness II: Confession is about Jackie Estacado, bearer of the Darkness, mob hitman, and all around bad dude, having a unique heart-to-heart with his one true love, Jenny Romano. Through the course of the story, we get a glimpse into what makes Jackie tick as well as a sense of what has gone on before The Darkness II video game begins. Plus there's an interesting turn of events at the end of the story that don't make Jackie too happy. It's a great introduction to the character, the world, and what happened in the first The Darkness video game.
Nrama: This FCBD comic is subtitled “Confession”; what does that refer to for this comic?
Sablik: In a very real sense, this is the confession of Jackie Estacado. These are things that he can't tell anyone else in his life. Jackie and Jenny grew up in a Catholic orphanage together, and like so many folks who grew up in similar backgrounds, Jackie has that idea of penance engrained in his core. I really liked the idea that while Jackie would never go talk to a priest to confess, he sees Jenny as the one pure element in his life and wants to unburden himself to her. Make no mistake, Jackie is a very bad man, but what makes him compelling as a character is that he is tortured by the things he's done.
Nrama: Since this new video game is a sequel to the original The Darkness video game, does this FCBD comic bridge the gap between the two?
Sablik: Yes, the idea behind this story was to both introduce new readers and video gamers to the character of Jackie Estacado and the Darkness, but also get longtime comic caught up on what happened in the first The Darkness video game so they can just pick up The Darkness II and jump right in. Hopefully, the art team and I struck a nice balance between conveying a lot of information with telling a compelling story and giving everyone something new to sink their teeth into. The Darkness II is very much a direct sequel to the first game, two years have passed in game continuity, and this comic is very much a bridge between the two games.
Nrama: I know Jackie’s in this, but will we be seeing any other familiar Top Cow faces in this video game and comic?
Sablik: No, the comic and games are very much about Jackie and his world. You'll see Jenny and the Darkling in the comic and game, but no characters outside of The Darkness franchise.
Nrama: Since you were writing the story as a prequel to the game, did you try to hone in more on how a reader would use those Darkness powers as they will in the video game?
Sablik: Yes, in the flashbacks I wanted to highlight some of the Darkness powers that were introduced in the first video game. We tried to convey the information visually rather than hit the reader with a bunch of expositional text about the powers or captions calling out the powers like moves in an anime show. We wanted the reader of the comic to see the breadth of power that Jackie has at his disposal and hopefully think, "Wow, that's cool! How'd he do that? I want to know more."
It's worth noting that in the present scenes in the comic, Jackie isn't using his powers. In fact, he's been intentionally keeping the Darkness trapped within himself. He blames the Darkness for what happened to Jenny and it's the only way he can punish it for that. It's been two years since the events in the first game and as far as we know Jackie hasn't used his powers since then. How and why he finds himself in a position where he needs to use them again is something that gets explored fully in The Darkness II.
Nrama: Un the video game they’re doing a new technique called “quad wielding” where Jackie can shoot two firearms while also using his Darkness powers. Will you be showing off any of that in the comic?
Sablik: In a sense, Jackie has been doing things like that for years in the comics, but it's a real innovation in gameplay for The Darkness II. I've seen the demo of the "quad wielding" gameplay and it is pretty wild. I have a feeling that the average 16 year old on X-Box Live is going to able to run circles around me utilizing all four weapons in conjunction. I'm still trying to figure out how to fire two guns at the same time!
[Newsarama Note: We haven’t just “seen” it, we’ve played it! Check out our detailed hands-on with The Darkness II by clicking here!]
Nrama: I know Top Cow President Matt Hawkins is a big time gamer – I think he killed me on a MMORPG once – but what about you, Filip. Do you play games, and have you played The Darkness II?
Sablik: Matt is definitely the big gamer in our office, although few guys rival Marc Silvestri at Halo around the Pit. I'm definitely a game fan, but what you would call a "casual gamer". I played a fair amount of video games in college and then went through a period where I didn't own a game system at all. The first modern game system I owned was my X-Box 360, which I got when the first The Darkness video game was released. Nowadays, I like to pick great games with strong narratives and play through them on the "easy" level to experience the story. For me, it's a fun release so I'm not really looking to get frustrated with challenges within the game. Although I am a big Rock Band fanatic.
I've played the 20 minute demo of The Darkness II at the L.A. preview event that 2K held and it blew me away. The Darkness II is exactly the kind of game I love to play - fast paced, linear, with a great narrative to keep me engrossed and moving forward. The Darkness has always had an element of wish fulfillment and I think 2K and Digital Extremes really captured that in the game.
Nrama: Your previous FCBD offerings have been launching points for your summer event series of the year, so choosing to do it as a lead-in to the video game is a big deal. Why do did you choose to do this comic, and do it as your FCBD offering?
Sablik: We've always looked at Free Comic Book Day as a venue to attract new readers and fans to the Top Cow Universe. What better way to attract new fans, and possibly non-comic readers, to comic shops than a huge video game release like The Darkness II? It was a fantastic opportunity for both Top Cow and 2K Games and we didn't want to pass it up. For direct market retailers, it's an opportunity and a tool to use to introduce gamers to The Darkness and then segue into the expansive backlist we have available with The Darkness: Accursed and The Darkness: Origins trade paperbacks and the ongoing The Darkness series.