Outer Darkness #1
Writer: John Layman
Art: Afu Chan
I’m ashamed to admit that I still haven’t read Chew, though I’m aware of the endless praise it receives. That very same praise is what sent me into the demon-infested space romp that is Outer Darkness; written by John Layman with art by Afu Chan. Needless to say, I had decently high expectations going into this. The book isn’t breaking any new ground at the moment, so while it hasn’t entirely lived up to those expectations, it still it has loads of potential and is a great deal of fun.
In Outer Darkness, we follow Joshua Rigg, a no-nonsense First Officer of an unnamed cargo ship. That is until the crew stumbles upon what’s known as a “necro-storm.” Which seems to be a mob of space-demons that carry rocks. I’ll be honest, I don’t fully understand that bit yet, but I don’t think I’m supposed to, as the reader is dropped into the thick of it. Rigg makes the call to cut the cargo to make a quick escape and save the remaining crew. The captain disagrees, and Josh takes matters into his own hands. Long story short, this leaves Josh and his old friend, Agwe, temporarily out of a job. This is all just the setup, but it introduces you to the world and characters in an action-packed couple of pages.
Layman’s dialogue is quick and witty, and the two main characters are likable enough for a first issue. We learn on the first page that Josh is looking for someone named Rochelle, who has apparently been lost in space. We don’t know who she is or what their relationship is, only that she’s important to him. This is a simple, but effective, method of introducing the protagonist’s motivation and has you rooting for him from the get-go. While the writing is mostly strong, it has its problems, and they lie in the world-building. It introduces fun concepts, like the space-demons and something called a “god-engine,” but the book just throws these ideas at you with a smile on its face, as if it’s saying “Cool, right?”. It is cool, but it’s a very surface-level cool. These concepts don’t really have any meat on their bones, though I recognize that this is only a first issue and these things will take time to be fleshed out. However, as a single issue, I can’t say I’m extremely invested in these ideas. I’m mildly intrigued, but that’s about it.
The art by Afu Chan is very solid. Chan has an eye for storytelling and the characters’ facial acting is on point. It’s a simplistic style, and because of that, he’s very good at making all the human characters look unique, so the reader never mixes them up. Throw in some interesting alien and ship designs, and you’ve got a fine-looking book on your hands. It may not blow you away with its page layouts or spectacular splash pages, but it doesn’t need to, at least not with everything else it has going for it.
Outer Darkness is a fun, safe (so far), sci-fi book. Its concepts and characters all are all interesting on the surface, but it’s up to the next few issues to do the heavy lifting regarding exploring those ideas if it wants to keep people reading. If you’re a Layman fan, or if the phrase “Star Trek but with demons” tickles your fancy, you might want to check this one out.
Outer Darkness #1
Outer Darkness is a fun sci-fi book and well worth a look, but it will need to flesh out its concepts in an interesting way to continue to be worth your time.