Publisher: Image Comics (Skybound Imprint)
Writer: John Layman
Artwork: Afu Chan
Letters: Pat Brosseau
Release Date: 11th September 2019
As we approach the end of this arc we have to take stock of what has come before. We’ve had haunted houses (in spaaace!), rescued nuns, possessions, plots, twists and turns aplenty. In fact, at times I had to remind myself of the original mission. That may sound like the underlying plot is forgettable, but it’s more telling of how much the team have been able to cram into the series.
In characteristically confusing or misleading fashion we open with not one but two shots of the Charon; or should that be two shots of two different Charons? I’ve said before when recommending Outer Darkness that ‘expect the unexpected’ doesn’t quite cut it. Just when you think you have a handle on the situation, Layman et al throw a curve ball which always manages to hit home.
Where some creative teams use a touch of legerdemain to detract from a potential lack of substance, it never feels forced here. Instead, each issue manages to open up the characters for greater scrutiny, either re-affirming our conceptions or forcing us to question our established likes and dislikes.
By the second page we have a decent inkling of what’s going on. Clearly some kind of space infection/growth/parasite is contaminating the crew. Well, that or we are straying into different dimensions… Some might feel confident enough to put money on it being connected to the contagious haunted knife from a previous misadventure. Not me, however. I’m sticking with my rule of expecting the unexpected! Regardless, it’s not long before we see a darker side to a number of the core characters here; especially in Captain Rigg.
As ever, Chan and Brosseau provide a delectable feast for the eyes. Special mention to a brilliant canteen splash which is somewhat unnerving in how close it brings you to the action. The fading out from what can only be described as a prison beating later in the issue also manages to convey the ambivalence of anger and despair, eliciting a response I wasn’t prepared for.
Whilst there was a nagging sensation at the back of my mind that this all felt like a bit of a distraction, there are so many little throw away lines that reveal crucial details of where this is heading. The build-up and final panels of this issue have been something fans will have been eager to see for a while now and the resultant expressions make the wait well worth it. Outer Darkness remains one of my favourite runs of the year and as eager as I am to see the conclusion, there’s more than a little reticence about seeing this arc end.
The writer of this piece was: Adam Brown
Adam Tweets from @brother_rooster