Nocterra #5 is written by Scott Snyder, illustrated by Tony S. Daniel, colored by Tomeu Morey, and lettered by Andworld Design. It is published by Image Comics. Following the shocking ending of Nocterra #4, Val Riggs finally seems to have accomplished her goals. Her brother Emory has finally been cured of his shade affliction and she is in a place with actual light-she can finally know peace. However, trouble soon springs up in paradise as Val and Emory come to loggerheads over their future path, as Emory witnessed a shocking revelation concerning the “Big PM” while he was under the influence of the Shades.
Most of Snyder’s work, including Undiscovered Country and Batman: Last Knight On Earth, often features two characters who tackle a pessimistic and optimistic point of view respectively. Thus far, Val has been the more pessimistic character, while Emory holds hope that things will get better despite the eternal night that covers the globe. In this issue, the points of view are reversed: Val is actually looking forward to a future with light, while Emory can’t turn away from the ongoing war between light and darkness. Their arguments feel real and emotionally charged because they act like actual siblings. I’m the oldest of three and after a lifetime of fights with my siblings, I can relate to Val.
The issue also fully introduced Tiberius, who is the twin brother of George and the leader of the sanctuary where Val and her companions end up. At first, Tiberius seems benevolent: he’s willing to take Val and her friends in, and he’s working to cure the human shades. However, the last page throws those good intentions into question; to say more would spoil the surprise.
The artists get the chance to flip the script on their artwork, presenting an environment that is bathed in light. After four issues of perpetual shadows and horrific creatures, it’s refreshing for Daniel to draw a nice and peaceful issue. True, some shades make an appearance, and Emory’s brief transformation into a shade is frightening to witness, but most of the issue features Val recuperating and exploring her new home. Daniel also favors close-ups of characters’ faces, especially Val and Emory’s. This helps sell the emotional weight of their argument, as readers can clearly see the stubbornness in Val’s eyes and the tear-soaked determination in Emory’s.
Finally, Morey uses a brighter color palette for this issue to make the sanctuary look virtually heavenly. A hospital bed is placed in the middle of a field of flowers that bloom bright red and pink, with shafts of light beaming down. On the flip side, Emory’s shade form is a living nightmare, with blood-red eyes and charcoal-grey skin. The red even permeates Val’s captions, matching the designs of her Sundog armor. I’ve used the word “bright” before in previous reviews while discussing colors, but this is a truly bright comic.
Nocterra #5 sets the stage for the conclusion to the series’ first story arc, flipping plenty of the series’ trademark elements on their head along the way. This has been one of Image Comics’ most engaging series of the 2020s, and I highly recommend getting caught up before Nocterra #6 if you haven’t already.
Nocterra #5 is available wherever comics are sold.
Nocterra #5 sets the stage for the conclusion to the series’ first story arc, flipping plenty of the series’ trademark elements on their head along the way.
Collier “CJ” Jennings is a freelance reporter and film critic living in Seattle. He uses his love of comics and film/TV to craft reviews and essays on genre projects. He is also a host on Into the Spider-Cast.