Publisher: Dark Horse Comics
Writers: Tim Seeley (The Occultist #1: At Death’s Door), Fred Van Lente (Brain Boy #0), Kelly Sue DeConnick and Christopher Sebela (Ghost #1), Frank Barbiere (Blackout #1)
Artists: Mike Norton (The Occultist #1: At Death’s Door), Freddie Williams II (Brain Boy #0), Ryan Sook (Ghost #1) Colin Lorimer (Blackout #1)
Release Date: 15th October 2014
Now I’ve not had Dark Horse’s Project Black Sky on my radar, which frankly isn’t that surprising – I’ve never been a crazy fan of “whole universe events”. And the funny thing is, on first reading, you wouldn’t necessarily know that is part of such an occurrence. Actually, though, that’s a bonus; let’s consider these as 4 separate issues as just that, first of all.
The Occultist is funny, knowing, and sharp. Playing from the outset on your preconceptions of psychic-supernatural comics and the Dark Horse universe, we get a wry introduction to a teen superhero medium. It’s unlikely, but successful: a bit of angst, without being angsty, bright but not brash art, some genuinely creepy horror – an effective introduction to a character I’ve never met, and while initially my reaction is one of “Well that was great, let’s hope they can sustain that,” it’s followed by the thought of, “Wait – this exists in the same universe as Ghost and Hellboy. That’s… cool.”
A total change of tack from Fred Van Lente, with Brain Boy (although keeping the same letterer, Nate Peikos, means that subconsciously they follow smoothly – a deft touch, Mr Editor) giving us a sinister overview of psychic Men (and women) in Black. Again, this could be fairly standard fair, but a strong narrative with touches of Brubaker’s ‘Sleeper’ and impressive, disorienting art make for a compelling super-spy thriller. And then, you have a moment, when you realise that this is going on alongside the Occultist.
Ghost is precious to me. Elisa’s twisted life (and death) are the only comic I’ve ever collected in single issue form. When I found myself laughing by the second page along with the monstrous action, and absolutely driven to keep reading, I knew that DeConnick and Sebela had nailed it. It’s a slightly tricky pill to swallow, however, as I know that the most recent issue of the comic (#8) was a bit of a weak point (dear Dark Horse, put DeConnick back with Sebela please!) – still good, you understand, but less than top notch.
And as for Blackout, well, I really enjoyed it although I feel like I was slightly late to the party. It’s a strong, twisting tale, one of those great moments where a writer-artist isn’t being self-indulgent but trusted to see their vision through to its conclusion. Somewhat in danger of being a ‘Portal’ derivative, it manages to give us a fused spy-techno thriller. And with the previous three, we start to see the bigger picture.
So individually, we’d be looking at 4/5, across the board, and 4/5 would seem reasonable.
But… One last thing. There’s a web address on the front cover: http://projectblacksky.net – go to it. Click on FIRST ISSUE. Smile, and then be horrified. Then the next. Nod, knowingly. And the next. See your preconceived ideas of superhero comics fall apart. Read 5 webcomics. Bask in their glory, and be pushed over the edge by the ambition of this – project.
Overall Rating: 5/5 – even without the weblink.
The Writer of this piece was: Sam De Smith
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