REVIEW: ‘Outer Darkness,’ Volume 1

Reading Time: 3 minutes

Outer Darkness Vol 1

We used to think the afterlife resided in the sky. But as humanity grew, so did our understanding of the sky and the stars that lay beyond it. No longer bound to Earth, the afterlife was cast out into the vast void of the unknowable. Yet we still dream of that imagined place and wonder what lays beyond the stars. Those questions follow in Image ComicsOuter Darkness Vol 1, written by John Layman with art by Afu Chan.

The book follows Captain Joshua Rigg, commander of the Charon, on a nine-month deployment into the outer darkness. The space beyond the known galaxy where only the dead reside, the Outer Darkness, holds many mysteries for the crew of the Charon. That is if they don’t tear each other apart first. Space is a dangerous place with all of the ghosts and ancient demons roaming around. And of course the crew of the Charon hold secrets of their own.

If there’s one thing writer Layman has in spades, it’s imagination. The co-creator of Eisner Award-winning Chew churns out crazy genre mashups that just work, and Outer Darkness Vol 1. is no exception. The book takes place in a universe where science and mysticism work together in a symbiotic partnership. Spaceships run on the captured essences of Old Gods, primordial beings are powered by blood sacrifice. And when you die, your soul hurtles away from your body and into the Outer Darkness, as an apt a name for the absolute unknown of space as you can get.

While space faring sci-fi has explored the demonically supernatural before, Outer Darkness Vol 1. brings new energy to the genre. Rather than helpless astronauts in over their head, the crew of the Charon treat demonic possession as just another hazard of space travel. This brings the series closer to the adventurous heart of classic space exploration series like Star Trek, but with enough viscera thrown in to keep Event Horizon and Doom close to mind. It’s a fantastically executed combo that captured my interest and drew me in throughout the volume.

The only element of Outer Darkness Vol 1 that didn’t knock me off my feet was its pacing. The series treats focuses on the Charon’s long term journey rather than tight plot-work, which can leave some issues feeling un-moored upon first reading. But once Outer Darkness Vol 1. hits its stride, that sense of episodic detachment gels into an ensemble story of the Charon’s crew and their journey into the void. With a setting as rich with potential as Outer Darkness Vol 1, that ensemble approach offers countless narrative opportunities, all of which are sure to be interesting.

Additionally, Chan’s art style features a unique blend of visual styles pulled from classic sci-fi. Chan’s stylized character designs hearken back to the looks 1970s space anime. Combined with the series ghoulish monster design, these characters bring an old school vibe to this decidedly new school story. The end result is beautifully ghastly, a nostalgic dread that slips past our defenses. As a lover of pulp fiction from all eras, this style sang to me.

Outer Darkness Vol 1 is spooky and kooky. With old school anime style and clive barker edge, this is one book you can’t pass up. 

Outer Darkness Vol 1 is available now in comic book stores everywhere

 

 

Outer Darkness Vol 1
4.5

TL; DR

Outer Darkness Vol 1 is spooky and kooky. With old school anime style and clive barker edge, this is one book you can’t pass up.