When I was approached to determine my interest in reviewing Cole Higgins’ The Way: Age of Darkness (Volume 1), I was only provided the cover art. I initially felt as though it channels channeling Gary Larsen’s The Far Side, particularly via the cyclops’ eye, and the man standing in defiance whose eyes I cannot see. But Cole Higgins’ work here is far more surreal than Larsen’s work, seemingly aiming toward Neil Gaiman’s Sandman. Higgins falls outside of this scope, into something nevertheless ambitious.
Here at Geeks Under Grace, we typically include a Content Guide explaining to readers content concerns from a Christian perspective. I find that difficult to do with The Way: Age of Darkness, because its themes are inextricable from faith—nascently Judeo-Christian. I think Higgins aims for an abstract conceptualization of god, creation, and the fall of man, but succeeds in conjuring a generic one. The struggle for lucid writing is on display in the narrative breaks between the artwork. As a perfunctory mention, there are three images of bare-breasted women in this text, but this merely functions as a secondary sex characteristic to differentiate between men of violence and women who nurse, as the image “Mother” channels the idea that every human—Jesus included—was once as vulnerable as a babe.
If Higgins also sought a postmodern approach to storytelling, then he has succeeded. From that perspective, Age of Darkness is self-referential, self-aware. After establishing this divine being, his art and their accompanying captions perform more showing than telling, for better and for worse.
The Way: Age of Darkness catapults toward an array of trajectories. In one scene, “Violence Seems Like the Only Way” (unpictured) channels the savagery Cain and Abel, where one man killing another might at first appear to be a solution to an unmentioned problem, the victor standing defiantly over the corpse of his foe, seemingly crushed into the earth. But this scene comes well after “All of Our Lands are Covered in Blood” (see below), which depicts a family on an elevation overlooking a sea of the unconsoled, likely in distress from ideologies that justify the termination of life as an acceptable practice. The featured downtrodden disagree.
Of course, this is my interpretation; the appeal of a narrative art book such as this is how it can elicit multiple responses to the same imagery. As a man of the humanities, I can appreciate ambiguity of meaning, but downright opaqueness is frustrating. I did not include any in this review, but there are many images in Age of Darkness that defy my interpretive capabilities. Whether I “read” these images in the context of their adjacent neighbors or try to absorb them based upon their own merits, failing to derive meaning is frustrating, and I can imagine others experiencing the same.
Here is where the successes and failures of Age of Darkness lie—beyond the inexplicable incongruence of a world full of monstrous men where only comely women exist. Authorial fallacy understood, I prefer at least a baseline interpretation. Most of my engagement with Age of Darkness is due to what I bring externally from reading; naturally, I read this narrative artbook from a Christian perspective. I cannot help but to do so because in and of itself, Higgins’ work defies direction. Then again, perhaps a consistent nebulousness is the point.
+ Provocative imagery + Christian allusions?
- Black and white - Ambiguous
The Bottom Line
The Way: Age of Darkness is a decent allegory subtly haunted by the original from which it was inspired.