A Terrifying Threat Deep In An Asteroid Belt In Steve Niles & Nat Jones’ Delta 13 #1

by Brendan M. Allen

Who knows what mysteries lie deep in the asteroid belt? When a mysterious, huge, and previously undiscovered asteroid looms over their ship, a small crew of blue-collar workers discovers a terrifying threat unlike anything they’ve ever seen. Now, the crew must escape the asteroid, but even if they do, will they be able to escape each other and anything they bring back with them?

Space is a great setting for horror. It isn’t just the isolation. The setting itself can kill you. Quickly and brutally. With as much as we think we know about space and the great beyond, we don’t really. There’s stuff out there. Some of it might be alive. That living stuff might be smart, and it might not like us. The description and the evocative covers of Steve Niles’ new IDW offering with Nat Jones suggest the crew of this massive unnamed ship will run into some of that stuff, and the results won’t be pretty.

This opening chapter is a brilliant tease. We don’t learn exactly what these kids are doing in space or who they work for. They’re on a hauler of some sort, and they drop drones on large asteroids, activate them, then radio the home office to begin gathering data. Some sort of mineral rights/salvage operation? We get to know a little about the crew and their backgrounds, and we get set up with a huge cliffhanger for the next chapter.

Steve Niles is taking it easy, cooking this one up nice and slow. Everything plays well in the script, but it’s clearly a small piece of a much bigger picture. There’s a lot of build-up for a future payout. The character interactions are pretty standard fare for a small crew of a ship or an outpost, where isolation and familiarity create some odd routines and relationships. It’s all very believable and relatable to anyone who has been in a similar situation. By the end of the chapter, the threat is present and starts to take shape.

Nat Jones’ art is a great fit for the story so far. His wide shots set up the scale really well. In one spread, the ship is shown next to one of the standard sized asteroids the crew is used to dealing with. That sets up the shock later for how massive the undiscovered asteroid is later down the line. The color and lighting are fantastic. Everything inside the ship has that man-made green glow that monitors and emergency lighting throw off. Outside the ship, the light gets sucked into the vacuum of space. Jones’ linework also has a loose, sketchy quality that keeps readers a little off balance, adding to the overall tension of the piece.

Though this series opener reads a little more like a zero issue than a #1, it’s a solid foundation for what I’m absolutely certain will pop in the next issue.
Delta 13 #1, published by IDW, released 23 May 2018. Written by Steve Niles, art by Nat Jones, letters by Tom B. Long.

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