Dark Ride is one of the best series on the stands and issue #4 further cements it

Dark Ride #4
Dark Ride #4 variant cover by Michael Walsh

Joshua Williamson and Andrei Bressan’s Dark Ride is a treat for horror fans. The scary theme park at the center of the story is a buffet of genre references and the monsters that inhabit it hide gruesome secrets underneath their mascot suits. While it’s fair to say Dark Ride is a fun read, it’s not without its moments of pure darkness. Issue #4 dives more freely into them.

Dark Ride #4 continues to frame Devil Land park as a place that’s being forced to get in with the times. The definition of fear has changed more than once in recent years and is currently at its most flexible. The park’s owner, Arthur Dante, and his kids Samhain and Halloween (their actual names) are scrambling for ways to update the experience and stay relevant, but eager YouTubers and the sister of missing park employee Owen Seasons are threatening to expose the real horrors operating behind the scenes.

Samhain and Owen’s sister, Summer, take a more central role in issue #4, both fearful of the park’s real power as they each try to understand it while figuring out how Owen could just vanish without a trace inside it. The story is starting to take more of a traditional shape here, with the evil elements making themselves more clearly visible than in previous issues. It looks like Samhain and Summer will end up working together to get to the bottom of the many unknowns Devil Land houses.

Summer’s search for her brother does allow Williamson and Bressan to channel bits from a movie I’m pretty sure influenced the comic’s creation: Tobe Hooper’s The Funhouse (1981). In it, a group of horny teens visit a fair that features a big and disorienting funhouse as one of its main attractions. They sneak into the ride to extend their stay after the fair shuts down, but what they get is an encounter with a monstrous and violent thing that calls the place home along with his cruel parent.

Dark Ride #4

Hooper’s approach to the empty funhouse turns the location into a strange nightmare-filled arena, with barely discernible shapes and shadows making the darkness feel dangerous at every turn. Williamson and Bressan achieve a similar sensation, but they extend it to take over the entire park. Devil Land always looks like a death trap with a mind of its own, not content with just scaring guests. It takes a bite out of customers, one way or another, and it’s the reason why the horror the creative team manages to conjure up with it feels so unique.

Bressan gives the park and its creatures a fairy tale-like aesthetic that flips classic cartoon tropes for things that look as if from another dimension, a very sadistic one at that. Their behavior reminds of the old voodoo zombie films of the black & white era, stoic but harboring a menace that could reveal itself at any moment.

Adriano Lucas’ colors have been a highlight since issue #1. They’re loud and bright and they help in creating an interesting dialogue between the real and the monstrous. I was reminded of old carnival posters, in which sideshow ads and key announcements jumped out of the page. You can almost hear the colors being shouted out via megaphone, urging people to step right up.

Dark Ride continues to be one of the best series on the stands and it looks like that won’t be changing in 2023. Williamson and Bressan are taking full advantage of the premise, adding layers upon layers of storytelling to the point of establishing narrative arcs and threads that can go on for a long time. I hope the series stays for the long run. If Devil Land were a real place, I’d have no problem buying one of those expensive, all-inclusive passes that let me visit whenever I want. Even if it risks being eaten by one of the rides.

Story: Joshua Williamson Art: Andrei Bressan
Color: Adriano Lucas Letterer: Pat Brosseau
Story: 9.0 Art: 9.0 Overall: 9.0
Recommendation: Read and then watch Hooper’s The Funhouse if you haven’t already.

Image Comics provided Graphic Policy with a FREE COPY by the publisher for review

Purchase: TFAW – Zeus Comics – comiXology/Kindle