Something For The Weekend: Outer Darkness Vol. 2 By Layman, Chan And Image/Skybound
by Olly MacNamee
Outer Darkness Vol. 2 came out this week from writer John Layman and artist Afu Chan, alongside letterer Pat Brosseau, collecting the second half of season one of this horror/sci-fi saga. It’s a comic book that only seems gets more and more ghoulish and gory as the series skips along and the opening chapter of this book is a good marker for how Layman merges genre tropes from both science fiction and horror to create something rather unique.
I doubt anyone would have expected a haunted house to simply appear in the darkest depths of space, and yet that’s exactly what happens here. But, not before we are given a glimpse into space scoundrel Captain Rigg’s past and a scene straight out of you worse nightmare as Rigg and his crew mates of yore try to outrun crab/babyfaced monsters scuttling towards them and slaughtering ‘em. These two scenes alone give any new reader a great taste of what is to come. Mixing American horror conventions with more Japanese influenced elements gives Outer Darkness an manga-esque aesthetic that also nods to the classic sci-fi streamlining of the 60’s and the era of Star Trek that it takes it’s lead from. Wait till you get a load of the chapter entitled ‘Slasher’. Yeah, it’s exactly what you think it is, and them some!
But, the crew of the USS Enterprise never bickered as much as this crew. The onboard soap-operatics and clash of characters will keep you clambering for more as we learn about other members of the Charon; a space ship powered by an ancient pagan god. It’s the fuel that keeps this series intriguing and far more than just a horror show in space. We are encouraged to invest in this characters as we learn of their loves and their losses. It would seem many on this ship have been touched by the hand of tragedy in some way or other.
Meanwhile, as we learn more about the crew, Rigg has a long-term plan that we are somewhat privy to throughout this second volume, and what leads him to double-cross his crew and his command and audition a whole new crew for a whole new mission. The cliffhanger to this first season will have you clambering for more as well as turn everything on it’s head. As we saw with CHEW, Layman has a great knack of turning readers’ expectations on their head and keeping us guessing.
Along the way to Rigg’s desertion of duty we get more focus on certain crew members to discover they too have their secrets to keep. Seems no-one is who they seem to be and that only ups the mystery in space and our investment in both the characters and the stories.
Afu Chan has been a real find as he switches from ghastly gothicism to sleek stylish sci-fi without missing a beat and creates a world in which both can easily live side by side. It’s one of the many bonuses of having one specific artistic vision and one artist guiding that vision.
Layman and Chan are having the time of their lives on this series and I cannot wait for its return after the recently announced cross-over with CHEW. For this of you who have yet to catch up with this series, then you can binge-read it all over two volumes and see what your missing. Definitely for fans of classic sci-fi and classic horror. Star Trek meets the Exorcist through the aesthetic lends of Akira. And that more than works for me!
Outer Darkness Vol. 2 is out now from Image/Skybound Comics