Like Leviathan before it, the sci-fi space opera, Outer Darkness #1, from John Layman and Afu Chan, is one fan’s love letter to a genre clearly loved and embraced over the years. Whether it be Star Trek or Deep Space Nine, Layman – in his notes on this issue – freely admits to wanting to create comics he’d want to read. It just so happens his tastes, and the dark comedic elements and horror that he injects into each of his projects, are the tastes of a lot of other comic book readers, including myself.
Outer Darkness #1 is Layman’s unashamed take on those spacefaring stories of diverse crew members on missions that will take them far, far away from Earth and inevitably into danger. Here the dangers are of a more horrific nature as we first see in the opening pages and witness a universe in which exorcists and ghostbusters are part and parcel of deep space missions. This is a sensational supernatural sci-fi saga that does well in setting up the situation and the characters in just one issue. We witness our hero/anti-hero, Captain Riggs as he falls out of favour with his superiors and takes on a mission of madness with an ulterior motive. Along the way, we get to meet the core crew that will voluntarily take the leap into outer space and the outer darkness, as well as the more-than-sentient ship, aptly named The Charon. I’ll let you find out exactly why, but it’s a great reveal and a great concept to boot. One, I dare say, that will bite the assembled crew on their collective asses at some point.
Afu Chan’s widescreen artwork is magical to behold. His designs for the vehicles of this comic have hints of Alex Raymond’s own classic design work on the ships of Flash Gordon, while his character designs are influenced from all across this diverse globe of ours with characters seeming to come from all around. There’s the aforementioned bad-boy Captain Riggs, with his sheep skin-lined leathers and big collars, as well as the more smartly dressed Administrator Prakash and a variety of alien life-forms such as Alistor Satalis, who has the funniest of exchanges with Riggs when they first meet aboard The Charon. The art style reminded me ever so slightly of Herge, but in space, and without the racial stereotypes of Tintin. Realistic, but with a certain cartoon-like quality to it too.
Outer Darkness #1 is a cinematically widescreen comic with the promise of spacefaring horrors to come. Whether this horror come from outer space, of from within the ship itself is a saga I’m looking forward to reading. Add another one to the pull list!
Outer Darkness #1 is available now from Image/Skybound.