Review – Outer Darkness #5 (Image Comics)

Publisher: Image Comics (Skybound Imprint)
Writer: John Layman
Artwork: Afu Chan
Letters: Pat Brosseau
Release Date: 13th March 2019

So here we find ourselves at the penultimate issue of this inspired first arc. It’s been a hell of a ride so far and if this issue is anything to go by, the finale is gonna be truly spectacular.

I’ve come to terms with expecting the unexpected from the team and whilst it’s a cliché, it’s particularly apt when discussing Outer Darkness. In a comic where gods are trapped and harnessed to fuel interplanetary vessels, or where standard operating procedures dictate whether you need to worry about the hassle of resurrecting your colleagues, the baseline for ‘normal’ is hard to pin down.

Following a brilliant revelatory backstory issue last time out, we start here not back on the Charon, but on the New Avalon settler colony of Trellis-86. It’s clear something’s not right and there’s very much an Aliens feel to the first few pages. True to form though, things fare more than a tad worse for the folks present but it does provide one of the best expressions I’ve seen for someone being simultaneously disembowelled and undergoing forced madibulectomy. I’m not sure that’s even a real word. Actually in fairness I don’t think I can name another example but this one’s so good it’d take some beating.

One has to applaud Brosseau’s lettering, working so well here with Chan’s depictions providing a masterful page with one vowel screams culminating in a bloody “splutch”. Similarly, the work deployed by Chan throughout this series has been on point and this issue is no exception. It really is joyous to see how story development can be achieved without words. When you can be so drawn into the world on display that you are there running for your life with individuals that up until 3 minutes ago you had never met; engaging doesn’t quite cover it!

For me, Outer Darkness is like the adult equivalent of those Saturday morning cartoons with the proper story arcs. The ones where you’d be super eager to meet up with friends and discuss what happened whilst firing laser pistols from your fingertips. All this and we’re barely at page 5…

I really don’t want to spoil some of the twists and turns in this issue but suffice to say the excrement hits the rotatory device in a big way here. There are crash landings and deaths aplenty. Actually, it’s worth drawing attention to the fact that in a setting where resurrection is a thing, you can still be so effected by seeing characters hurt, or worse. I’ve made mention previously of how the overall art and tone downplays the horror element in this series but boy do the emotions run riot in this issue.

Being a fan from the off, this series has consistently ticked all the boxes. I was drawn in by the execution of the weird and wonderful ideas, and of course the efforts of the team as a whole. I said it was refreshing for something to be so straight up entertaining. Now here, awaiting the finale of the arc I realise how insidiously Outer Darkness has raised the bar for my future reading.

Rating: 5/5.


The writer of this piece was: Adam Brown
Adam Tweets from @brother_rooster

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