Publisher: Image Comics (Skybound Imprint)
Writer: John Layman
Artwork: Afu Chan
Letters: Pat Brosseau
Release Date: 12th June 2019
After the events on Trellis-86 we return to the Charon and its crew in what is now characteristically ‘out there’ fashion. For a comic that has consistently been off-the-wall and in-your-face, combining horror, science fiction, and humour, I was unsure how this approach would hold up into the second arc. Well, I’m super stoked to say that it does so with aplomb and remains easily one of my favourite reads of the year so far.
So how does one subvert expectations to jump start this new run? How about throwing in a haunted house story? Now this isn’t a standard creepy old manor haunted house story. Well, actually it is, but it’s a creepy old haunted house… in space!
Opening in a god-engine induced flashback, we learn a smidge more about Captain Rigg’s past and quickly realise just how little we know about the leader of this now reduced crew. We start in the thick of the action and with the momentum established, keep moving at pace through what becomes a relatively straightforward recounting of the history of a haunted house. It’s a testament to how well all the pieces of this title now fit together that a premise which I don’t think should necessarily work provides such a stonking read here. Obviously, this being Outer Darkness, what is considered a straightforward exorcism by the chief Malachi Reno results in more than a few surprises.
I’ve said it before but Chan’s art is just a perfect fit for the tone of this series. Shifting from deep space alien terror to 17th century France without skipping a beat, the characters and locales are all memorable. The choice of colour palette is spot on and I love the work with the eerie blues and greens throughout. The panels of the house from space, and Gallu the god-engine are particular standouts; especially given my interest of the god-engine as a concept and getting more of an inkling of its power. On top of the stellar writing and art, Brosseau’s letters are well chosen to make this an easy read, including the fantastic use of “splutch”.
Outer Darkness is a comic series that appears to be very comfortable in its own skin. Every risk and chance it takes with either story or art direction pays off in spades. And whilst I appreciate not everyone will be excited by science fiction or horror elements, I honestly can’t recommend this enough. Sure, there’s a bit of backstory to the characters now, but this issue is still a good jumping on point with a relatively contained story. If this doesn’t leave you wanting more, we may need to contact the ship’s exorcist as the only explanation is that you’re possessed by a fun hating demon!
The writer of this piece was: Adam Brown
Adam Tweets from @brother_rooster