Rainbow in the Dark (#1 – 9) – Comfort Love and Adam Withers

2 out of 5

My lord I hated this.  I hated that this was from the same creative team as The Uniques, as I was pretty impressed by how that series managed to do teen drama without all of the schmaltz that Rainbow in the Dark bathes in; I hated how peachy-keen music-and-love-are-all-you-need it was; I hated that none of it had any sense of stakes, or even much consistency.  I hated that a lot of the dialogue was taken from songs by U2, R.E.M., and other groups with which I do not truck.

…The book was not for me.  Let’s accept that.  Let’s accept that writers Comfort and Adam presumably grew up a bit between this and The Uniques (…even though those character pop up in the background of Rainbow…), which led to a better mingling of maturity with comic book soap and action antics.  For teens who love love, who listen to their older cousin’s playlists, and who spend 45 minutes putting on 8 belts, dyeing their hair in streaks, and tearing shirts into cool patterns, I can see how this comic would work.

So it’s not for me.  There are still some issues with it that make it not a great book.

Rainbow in the Dark boils down to that theme that fuels most YA stuff to a certain extent: adults and their rules suck, and the world would be better if we just accepted everyone for who they are.  Comfort and Adam do a Pleasantville / Matrix mash-up by having the rule-laden “normal” world appear in black and white – the Gloom – with people waking up to the really real world’s books, music, and people (otherwise invisible) suddenly seeing color.  This is often triggered by professions of love, though our main character – and soon the leader of a mass movement out of the Gloom – Donna, twigs on the existence of something beyond the Gloom early on, which leads to the first issue’s revelation that More Exists.  And at this point, the book works as a simple and obvious metaphor.  There are other points where it succeeds similarly, whether in the creepy bad guy designs, or, admittedly, in its final reveals of Who Did What Where When Why.  And I’m holding at a 2 star rating because our creators commit to their mood evenly: the bubbly Fight For Your Right dialogue is consistent; the mixing of monster explosions and lovey dovey stuff is balanced; and the lesson, though shallow, isn’t diluted by trying to mix in anything else.

But: whoof.  In the Really Real world, relationships that blossom into undying love happen in an instant.  In the Gloom world, the divide between those who like the color and those who like black and white is given a pass at being more emotionally complex before being done away with those one-dimensional professions.  In the Really Real, a magic closet grants all the clothes and food and weapons we need.  (No one seems to have to work…)  The ‘owners’ of the Gloom, meanwhile, can conjure monsters of all sizes, which can either be blown up with magically sparkly weapons or eat people, without much to say which can happen when.  There are simply zero, zero, zero stakes.  Negative stakes.  And zero connection to characters who can turn on their passions and proclamations without any buildup.  The ‘point’ of this exercise is made apparent from the first Gloom / Reality conversation, and it’s never expanded on thereafter, despite exposition from the baddies (whose cool visual design loses impact when you realize there’s no rhyme or reason beyond design for them to look that way) suggesting otherwise.

So while I can accept that the bubble-headed lack of reality, and the young kids’ fashion, and the constant and weightless song lyric dropping ain’t written for me, it’s unfortunately representative of the most self-indulgent aspects of youth.  It’s something I quite hated even when I was of the age, accepting that I had my own spin on teen angst to live through.

Professionally produced, yes, but I hope this version of Comfort and Adam’s comic creating was part of the learning process, and what happens after The Uniques will continue to incorporate the lessons and values of adulthood…