From Screen to Print: “Dark Angel: After the Dark”

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’s 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 Max 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.

Book 3 of the Dark Angel trilogy.

Book 3 of the Dark Angel trilogy.

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 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, fearing 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, and with financial help from Logan, they manage to purchase a building across the street from Terminal City. With the assisted funding, the Transgenics turn the property into a “mall” run by Transgenic workers that includes a popular art gallery. The gallery features pieces created by the Transgenics (such as Joshua) 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 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 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 for what purpose. 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 widen their search, Max discovers a shocking truth that leads her to one member of the cult, who eventually 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.  The incident involved a comet that passed closely through the atmosphere, depositing 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 threatened 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 world, saving 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 coded warning of the upcoming event 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 the same comet that the Dinosaurs extinct, and by the Conclave’s estimations, flew close to Earth every 2,021 years. The markings on Max’s body were still a warning, but there was no explanation given for developing a cure. It set up for an explosive showdown with the cult, especially with how Max eventually saves 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 falls short. After the Dark clocks in at 11 chapters and 258 pages, meaning a limited amount of time to fully develop these threads and end everything for the final book of the trilogy. Early on, Collins addresses Max’s virus, but the explanation given 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, and I was personally confused about some of the science behind it,. However, I understood just enough to accept it was a plausible cure, even 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 the book addresses the cult by explaining their motives and Max’s destiny, it is very late in the story and only 55 pages remained 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 felt 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 felt like 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 in terms of page length, I suspect Collins was rushed and perhaps this was his way of meeting a tight deadline. Whatever the case, I still applaud his efforts to give closure to the Dark Angel fanbase.

As I mentioned before in the previous Dark Angel novel reviews, Max’s last name is spelt 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 the 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 there will ever be 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

Novel Reviews:
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)

11 replies »

  1. It really pains me that this movie has really ended, but apart from the movie i only pray if max and Logan are not married for reall the two of the should really go along for sure bcuz they fit each other, but am still expecting season three and four let James Cameroon pick it up and do this movie again am beging,i know they cancelled it bcuz of financial difficulty, but when you give up opposers will get over you so please James do it again for your fans, cuz i wasn’t expecting this movie to end so fast thank you.up up Jessica and Logan i love you two.

  2. I love this show very much it hurts me that I caint see the show no more it started back coming on tv I thought season 3 was bouta come out idc if that’s the last one u do please make season 3 on TV again I’m ur biggest fan dark angel is one of the best shows I ever seen I love it it’s funny but sometimes bad but hey who doesn’t like a lil bad every now nd then I really hope u make a season 3 don’t matter that’s it’s been 12 years wat does matter is that u still got it u can still write good thank u

    • Thanks for the feedback. It is nice that the El Rey network is airing syndicated re-runs, but all I did was just review the show and the novels. I think it’d be more appropriate if you contacted James Cameron or Jessica Alba. If you have Twitter, contact them at @JimCameron and @jessicaalba. I’m sure they would appreciate hearing your enthusiasm and support of the show.

  3. I was a fan of the show from start to finish. Never missed a single televised episode. I have read all 3 novels and The Eyes Only Dossier as well. Even have the entire series on DVD. I really feel that the show didn’t get the ending it deserved. At least a 3rd season would had pulled the storylines of season 1 (Manticore) and 2 (The Conclave breeding cult) together. Dark Angel is a good example of network mishandling, having moved the show overall to Friday night and airing it at a time when mostly of the audience that the show was geared towards would be out on dates or with friends. Sad that it had to end like that.

    • I’m thrilled to hear that there are others who ended up reading the novels. I wish I had gotten to watch the show when it had originally aired on Fox, but I was ten years old at that time and I wasn’t allowed to stay up past 9:00. I managed to watch the series via the Internet within the last year and I liked it enough that it resulted in me buying the series on DVD as well as the 3 novels and the Eyes Only Dossier. I agree with you that it didn’t get the ending it deserved and that it deserved a third season (I made a mention of that in my review of the whole series). At least the novels tied up the loose ends, even if they weren’t 100% perfect.

      I also agree with you about the network mishandling. I’ve never understood (and still don’t understand) why a network would move a show from a successful time slot that gets a lot of viewers to another night when people are less likely to watch TV (again, I made a note of that in my show review). I read somewhere Fox was concerned about the budget in Season 1 being too expensive, hence the tone change in Season 2, but it was still good television. Maybe they thought the fan base was loyal enough or that it’d break the “Friday Night Curse” but all it did was just made Fox look stupid when the ratings fell… not that it doesn’t take much for Fox to look stupid with how they handle their shows.

      Maybe you’ve heard of it, but if you’re interested there was a video game released in February 2002 for the original Xbox and Playstation 2 you might want to look into. I managed to obtain it for $5.00. It’s a decent beat ’em up game–lots of frustration at times, but it had an intriguing story despite the game having a Canonical error with the timeline. At least it has the voices of Jessica Alba and Michael Weatherly, so that’s a plus.

      • The networks have absolutely no idea how to handle popular sci-fi shows. They’re convinced that if a show is popular on Sunday’s or Tuesday nights with the target demographic of 18-30 year old males, that it will do perfectly well on Friday nights, while they ignore the hard fact that that demographic is typically at the bars or on dates that time.

        Fox killed dark angel from this stupidity, they killed Firefly for the same stupidity. NBC killed Heroes similarly, not that the writers strike didn’t help matters. IMHO each of the executives involved in making the decisions to move sci-fi shows like this all should be fired and slapped repeatedly. I’m still pissed off about this show and firefly.

      • I have to agree with you moving the show to Friday’s was stupid. Everybody knows that Friday is fun night. People are at the bars or out on dates. I want the show back too. Ending the show the way they did was way wrong. They should have made a season 3. Or at least a movie to give a conclusion to the show. The way they ended it there are far to many questions.

  4. I really loved this show…Do you know where I could buy the third novel of the Dark Angel franchise to read it ?

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