The Naga Queen is dead. Nex the vampire is the prime suspect, but Shrae needs to prove it. The Dark Ark, the boat upon which God put all the evil and magical creatures in the world, would turn upon its keeper Shrae if he punishes Nex without adequate proof.
The premise to Dark Ark is great.
What if mystical, malevolent, and magical animals had their own ark during the Biblical Flood?
Also, and this is a trend I've seen with other people who grew up in the Bible Belt, I dig the hell out of fiction inspired by the Bible. It takes some wild stuff and tries to make it wilder, and it is wild stuff I grew up with, making it both oddly relatable and nostalgic for me.
They never quite capture the amount of tent peg murder though.
Cullen Bunn seems to understand this overall point since Dark Ark, Unholy Grail, and Harrow County all have elements from Christianity and/or staunchly religious characters.
One wouldn't quite expect a murder mystery in this setting, but it is an interesting one. How do you solve a specific murder when all residents are potential killers and despise you?
It keeps the tension high and the stakes raised. It also leaves you wondering what the overall consequences would be.
That being said, there are some drawbacks. The story implies at one point that Shrae is about to cut loose, and we are left without that happening this issue.
The paranoia over what could happen should Shrae punish Nex with the murder without evidence feels a bit forced. One would think that an iron fisted leadership would be the only way to keep this motley crew in line to begin with, so just going ahead and punishing Nex for it seems like it would deter further misbehavior.
The prevalence of vampires like Nex in this story feels tired. There are other more interesting creatures on the ark which would be more interesting to spotlight. On top of that, there are plenty of creatures one could rip from the Bible, the Apocrypha, and the Dead Sea Scrolls which aren't used often. Even the version of angels from Revelations would be pretty cool to see with their thousand eyes and immense power. Instead, we have a vampire who looks a little like Count Chocula.
I'm not saying vampires can't be in here, but they needn't be the main villain element. Even if they must, there could be more interesting things done with them.
That brings me to the art of Juan Doe, which leaves a lot to be desired. It's quite rough and cartoonish, and Nex does not look remotely intimidating in many of the panels. Shrae often looks quite cool, though, and there are moments that do invoke a fittingly archaic design. However, the overall cartoonish aesthetic doesn't work for the darker premise. The color work is a little off too and seems to be implying an atmosphere not quite fit for the setting. The prevalence of red light gives the story more of an oddly noire feel than biblical/apocalyptic. It doesn't quite work.
Despite its myriad of flaws, I can't say to outright avoid Dark Ark. It does have a number of positives from the premise itself to the stalwart sorcerer Shrae. It just needs to play more towards its own strengths. The murder mystery element isn't bad, but the story wanted a scenario which doesn't feel organic in the setting. In any case, feel free to try this one if it sounds up your alley. I can recommend it, but, if the premise itself doesn't spark some interest, you should likely steer clear.