WARNING: This review contains major spoilers, especially with how the series ends. You have been warned.
After 2 Seasons, 42 episodes, and 2 prior novels, the saga of Dark Angel comes to a close in Max Allan Collins’ novel After the Dark. Questions plagued Dark Angel fans for months after the series ended. Does Max’s virus get cured, and if so, how? What’s the Conclave’s agenda and why does Max pose as a threat to it? Why did the mysterious Sandeman, the man who created Manticore, make her special out of all the Transgenics? Do Logan and Max finally get together? After the release of Skin Game, the second novel in the Dark Angel trilogy, it was evident that the third novel would finally address these unresolved questions brought up during the show’s run.
The novel picks up the week of Christmas 2021, six months after the events depicted in Skin Game. Ames White, the NSA agent and secret member of the Conclave, is on the run from the government after being exposed by Max and Eyes Only for manipulating Bobby Kawasaki/Kelpy, the chameleon Transgenic, by making him mentally unstable and resulting in the deaths of numerous people while also manipulating the government into declaring war on the Transgenics (explained in the final chapter of Skin Game). White, hiding in a small town in Canada, is not only hiding from the government but from the Conclave as he fears the members of the Breeding Cult will punish him severely for his latest failure in taking down the Transgenics. His sanctuary does not last long as members of the Conclave track him down and take him back to the Conclave Stronghold where he awaits punishment by the leader of the cult. In order to avoid execution, he manages to persuade the Conclave leader to allow him one more opportunity to finally capture Max…and exterminate her and the Transgenics once and for all.
Meanwhile, Max and the Transgenics of Terminal City are adjusting to life as officially recognized citizens of Seattle and America, regarded by high ranking officials as equals to normal humans. The majority of the public remain skeptical of the Transgenics regarded as equals, but in the days after Kelpy’s televised confession that proved Transgenics were not a threat, many have found themselves persuaded and willingly accept the Transgenics into society. In a period of six months the Transgenics become integrated in the community. With financial help from Logan, they manage to purchase a building across the street from Terminal City, turning it into a “mall” with Transgenic workers that includes a popular art gallery. The gallery feature pieces created by the Transgenics that many art collectors find highly desirable, resulting in a very profitable business.
As life starts returning to normal for Max and company, an incident occurs where Max inadvertently touches Logan, exposing him to the fatal virus Manticore planted with Max’s body. After hours of angst, an examination by Dr. Sam Carr (portrayed in the series by Brian Markinson) reveals that there’s no trace of the virus in Logan’s body…or Max’s. In a complicated explanation by Carr and Logan, they theorize that Bobby/Kelpy somehow had something to do with the curing of Max’s virus.
Max and Logan are overjoyed that they are finally able to touch and finally establish a physical, romantic relationship after years of obstacles thrown in their way that prevented them from being together. However, the joy is short lived as Logan is overcome with guilt from his past. Now that they can finally be together, he wants everything between them to be honest by telling her a secret he swore he’d never tell her: that he knew Seth, the X5 Max attempted to track down in Before the Dawn. Feeling betrayed and blaming Logan for Seth’s eventual death, Max storms out of his apartment.
After a day of anger, and persuasion from a persistent Original Cindy, Max returns to Logan’s place to somehow resolve the questions of truth and loyalty between them. As she arrives she stumbles upon members of a street gang attempting to kidnap Logan. Unable to stop his abduction, Max attempts to figure out who kidnapped Logan, and why. With assistance from Mole (a lizard-man transgenic featured in 3 episodes of Season 2 and also featured in Skin Game), Alec, and Joshua, they attempt to track down the street gang demanding a ransom of $4,000,000. They eventually track the gang to their hideout, only to find every member brutally murdered and Logan missing. They find the gang leader, decapitated, and a tape recorder shoved in his mouth. When they play the recording, the audio reveals the culprit behind the kidnapping: Ames White. White leaves Max with an ultimatum: return his son, whom Logan and Max took and placed into hiding (depicted in the Season 2 episode “Exposure”), in exchange for Logan or else Logan dies.
Max begins the search for Ames White’s son, whose hidden location is only known by Logan himself. As the four Transgenics attempt their search, Max discovers a shocking truth that leads her to a member of the cult who reveals to her the motives of the Conclave…and Max’s true destiny. To make matters worse, the deadline for Logan’s life, and the agenda of the Conclave, occur at midnight on Christmas Day. And time’s quickly running out.
After two novels, Collins finally gives closure to the fans that longed for more after the show’s final episode. Collins deserves credit for taking the time to finally answer questions and provide resolution to the unresolved plot threads, giving Dark Angel the respectful ending that FOX never provided.
Collins does his best to keep to a key planned storyline for Dark Angel’s third season, tying together Manticore and the Breeding Cult and revealing the Cult’s motive. According to co-creator and co-executive producer Charles H. Eglee, Season 3 would have revealed that the cult was formed as a result of an incident occurring in Earth’s history thousands of years ago. A comet that passed closely through the atmosphere deposited a viral material that killed 97% of the human race. The 3% of the people that survived had a genetic immunity to the virus, allowing them to survive and prevent the human race from becoming completely extinct. Eglee said, according to his commentary of “Freak Nation” on the Season 2 DVD, one of the plans was to reveal that the Egyptian pyramids were genetic repositories to preserve the DNA of the survivors.
The Snake Breeding Cult was an ancient blood cult that passed on the genetic immunity to selective members of the human race in order to survive the next encounter with the comet, which would have occurred in Season 3. While every living person on Earth died, the Conclave would remain, rebuild civilization, and rule the Earth. The mysterious Sandeman, the creator of Manticore, disagreed with the motives of the Breeding Cult and planned to supply the immunity to all of humanity. As a result, the other cult members deemed Sandeman a heretic who threatening their goal of rebuilding humanity in their own image. Sandeman created Max to be savior of the human race by providing the genetic immunity to everyone through her. However, his plans were interrupted as a military branch of the government bought Sandeman out and took over Project Manticore.
The writers had many ideas of how to spread Max’s immunity to the human race, such as an air burst that would spread the antibody and be dispersed through the human race and save everyone from the comet. Another plan was that the immunity would be attached to viruses associated with the common cold. The markings that appeared on Max’s body in the Season 2 episode “Love Among the Runes” were a warning and gave instructions of how to provide the cure.
For After the Dark, Collins took the elements such as the comet, the virus, the cult breeding to become immune and perfected, and Max as the cure, but made it where Max’s blood contained antibodies that could become a vaccine. The comet was what made the Dinosaurs extinct, and by the Conclave’s estimations, flew close to Earth every 2,021 years. The markings on Max’s body were a warning, but no explanation was given for developing a cure. It set up for an explosive showdown with the cult, especially with how Max would save the world.
Collins deserves credit for explaining the cult’s motives, Max’s destiny, and the curing of Max’s virus, but his approach and explanations for tying everything up comes up short. After the Dark clocks in at 11 chapters and 258 pages, meaning he has a limited amount of time to fully develop these threads and end everything for the final book of the trilogy. Early on he addresses Max’s virus, but the explanation Collins gives is so vague that it’s hard to simply accept that it worked and that Max was cured, even if the medical tests proved there was no trace of the virus left in her system. This way of curing the virus divided the fan base. I was personally confused about some of the science behind it, but I understood enough to accept it was a plausible cure, though I did feel disappointed in how that plot thread was solved. Explaining how exactly Max was cured would make this review run longer than it should, so I suggest reading the novel for a full explanation.
After resolving Max’s virus in the first 60 pages, there was still enough time for the remaining 198 pages to resolve the Breeding Cult plot. However, by the time Collins finally addresses the cult by explaining their motives and Max’s destiny it is very late in the book and left only 55 pages to conclude everything. By the last chapter, Max faces her destiny as the comet enters Earth’s atmosphere… only to do nothing. It turns out the cult was wrong, and that the virus attached to the comet was never a threat. Further proof the ending was rushed reveals itself in the final nine pages, revealing that Donald Lydecker (remember him?) is alive and has been a prisoner of the Conclave for over a year.
While the book ends on a positive note with Max and Logan finally consummating their relationship, the approach to conclude the Breeding Cult storyline was a major letdown. After the Dark’s ending is not a letdown to the extent like the last 15 minutes of the video game Mass Effect 3, but it was a disappointing way to end the Dark Angel franchise. I personally felt that After the Dark was a rushed project. The novel easily could have been extended by another 100-200 pages, or even two separate novels, to fully develop better reasoning for Max’s cure and saving the world from the virus attached to the comet. Judging by the slightly larger print (compared to the previous two novels) and After the Dark being the shortest novel (page wise), I think Collins was rushed and perhaps this was his way of meeting a tight deadline. Whatever the case, I applaud his efforts to give closure to the Dark Angel fanbase.
As I mentioned before in the previous Dark Angel novel reviews, Collins once again spells Max’s last name as “Guevera” when it should be “Guevara.” While it is bothersome that her name is wrong in all 3 novels, it’s something fans of Dark Angel will have to simply ignore and just accept the author’s error.
It’s worth pointing out that the ending leaves an open door for another novel that would feature Max and Logan finding Max’s surrogate mother. Lydecker drops a hint that he knows where she is, but whether he’s telling the truth or not is up to the reader. He may very well have been speaking the truth, as Season 1 episode “Heat” revealed that Max’s mother did not want to give her up to Manticore and that she was still alive somewhere. When After the Dark was published in 2003, it was reasonable to assume another novel could be out in a year or two. As of 2013, the only other book published since then was the Eyes Only Dossier, which was a guide book to the Dark Angel universe. Since no other Dark Angel media has been released between 2003 and 2013, not counting DVD re-packaging, it’s unlikely Collins will ever write a fourth novel.
Even though After the Dark disappoints in two of the big key plot points, it does its job in providing a conclusion to Dark Angel by giving it a proper ending rather than the cliffhanger season/season finale FOX left fans with. Collins deserves praise for his contribution to expanding the Dark Angel universe and picking up the mantle held by James Cameron and Charles H. Eglee to complete the story, even if the final novel comes up short.
Grade: 3.5 out of 5.
Miss something? Click on the links below of previous Dark Angel reviews.
TV Series Review:
Retro Review: “Dark Angel“
From Screen to Print: “Dark Angel: Before the Dawn” (Book 1 of the Dark Angel trilogy)
From Screen to Print: “Dark Angel: Skin Game” (Book 2 of the Dark Angel trilogy)