Like the movies that inspired it, readers are dropped into Dark Cloud’s world of wastelands and warlords without much explanation as to how everything got to this point, how the technology works, or who our main character actually is–in this case, she doesn’t exactly know herself. The pace is fast, and character and milieu get revealed through action, though at times everything moves so quickly that, as the hero faces convoys, militias, standoffs, and a loose nuke, it can be unclear what’s actually happening or why. Dark Cloud’s past–as well as the world’s–all are shrouded in mystery, to the point that this particular post-apocalyptic adventure doesn’t fully distinguish itself from others in its genre.
Dark Cloud is a dark, sometimes graphic, action-packed read whose story touches on complex topics like environmental degradation, exploitative labor, and nuclear devastation, with some moral murkiness and a tendency to let readers work out background and context for themselves. Barrel’s photo-derived illustrations have some dark power, and he stages action with clarity and power, especially the rampage of a terrifying robot. Also appealing: the purplish desert skies under which Dark Cloud grieves.
Takeaway: A cinematic, action-packed graphic novel full of wasteland violence and beautiful desert scenes.
Great for fans of: East of West, Savage Highway.
Design and typography: B
Marketing copy: A-
“Sandra Wolff’s Dark Cloud is a stunningly gorgeous graphic novel about a woman’s quest to save land from nuclear destruction in the post-apocalyptic American West. With the help of her monk-like father figure, a loyal robot, and her own foresight, the amnesiac Dark Cloud leads the resistance against warlord General Stone before he can further decimate the environment. Full of dynamic characters, cinematic visuals by illustrator Jared Barel, and action-packed intensity, Dark Cloud is a must read for fans of dystopian fiction, even for those unfamiliar with the graphic novel format.” Self-Publishing Review, ★★★★½