Publisher: Image Comics (Skybound Imprint)
Writer: John Layman
Artwork: Afu Chan
Letters: Pat Brosseau
Release Date: 9th January 2019
Outer Darkness is one of those series that tries hard to defy description. A mind-blowing blend of science fiction, action, horror, and humour. If you haven’t checked it out already and fancy something a bit off the wall to start your new year then you definitely won’t go wrong here. That’s not to say that this issue is an easy jump-on point, but as it’s only #3 you’ve got plenty of time to try and catch up. And, with that said, there may be some spoilers ahead…
After Riggs taking control of the USS Charon (love the reference) and a somewhat unorthodox testing of the crew’s capabilities, there’s a shift in tempo this issue as we are treated to Outer Darkness’ version of the ‘away team episode’. Of course, being the comic that it is, we’re not going to be cavorting with green women or having highbrow diplomatic negotiations. No, we’re going to have an alien shoot-out and a spot of dubious mercantile salvage works. To cap it all off, there’s also a spot of techno-necromancy which drives some plot revelations, tying up the issue nicely. Taking the time to go off on a little tangent like this gives us opportunity to get to know the supporting cast better and fleshes out the bridge crew and main players.
With so much character and ‘stuff’ in here that just chimes and resonates it’s almost as if this series was written for me personally. The idea of diabolic god-powered star drives, or the ship’s mathematicians and exorcists partaking in arcane rituals to ward off space demons is admittedly not going to be everyone’s tastes, but where else will you open with, “Galactic service report log… Exorcism Division”? Even the reader’s letters have folk coming up with short stories and ideas to expand the world after such a short period.
Now what would a good story be without some similarly good art and lettering? Thankfully Outer Darkness is in fine hands with Chan and Brosseau. If you’re going to go for this level of weird you need a team that can hold up the visual side of things. The characters are distinctive and memorable, and whilst the overall visual style might seem a bit at odds with the themes and contents, I think this actually prevents the whole thing from collapsing in on itself as the bubble suspending your disbelief pops.
The quick angle changes and forced perspective allows Chan to show so much of the team’s world in simple yet effective ways, from view screens to sniper scopes or the ship’s bridge to incantations in the clone tanks. And with an almost whimsical air to the art which downplays the horror elements and keeps the entertainment pumping, Outer Darkness has to be one of my favourite new series on the shelves today.
The writer of this piece was: Adam Brown
Adam Tweets from @brother_rooster