Outer Darkness Vol. 1 // Review
No story is new. Joseph Campbell, the author of "The Hero With a Thousand Faces," (which influenced George Lucas tremendously) always stated that all stories follow the same tropes. There are many cosmic stories out there. It is difficult to find one that keeps the reader's interest. Image comics allowed John Layman, the writer of the critically acclaimed "Chew," to write his space opera. The art was put together by Afu Chan of Immortal Iron Fists. As Layman did in his previous work, he does not disappoint.
The Galactic Service is a centuries-old war against the Dryx. Comprised of races from all across the universe. Almost everyone is committed to the cause despite the length of the war. First Officer Joshua Rigg and his companion, a Vodun priest by the name of Agwe, have been kicked out of the Galactic Service for violating several Military regulations. Rigg and Agwe contemplate their fate at the nearest watering hole when they are approached by an Admiral. The Galactic Services has a secret and dangerous mission, and the only man who can accomplish it is Riggs. He is reinstated and promoted to Captain and is given the most advanced vessel in the fleet, The Charon.
The reader is introduced to the departmental officers of the Charon. There is Administrator Prakash Alastor and First Officer Alastor Satalis. The reader is also introduced to Navigator Elox, Lead Mathematician Willits, and Chief Exorcist Keno. Automatically, Outer Darkness feels like Star Trek, as the reader speculates who is going to make it past the next issue. Riggs quickly alienates himself from his crew by putting them in danger to test their mettle. From that moment on, the drama ensues as some crew members contemplate mutiny and even murder.
Layman does a beautiful job at world building without bombarding the reader with information. Instead, he uses the characters and their ranks to explain how the Outer Darkness universe works. The reader learns that in this universe, magic and science are used together to power technology, heal the sick, travel through space, and deal with conflict. For example, the Charon is powered by a god-engine, specifically a Sumerian demon, Gallu. It must be fed people to be able to do the commanding officer's bidding. Criminals and traitors are used as tribute. The enemy sets up booby traps via spells and demons that use possession to overcome their victims.
Chan is a relative newcomer to comics, but his work on Immortal Iron Fists was terrific. His style is reminiscent of Michael Oeming of Powers and Young Animal. Chan's cartoon slick technique works well with the storyline. His panels are full, so the reader can see the details. There are several alien races presented in this story, and Chan does a great job of bringing them to life. Some might find his work too simple, but Chan has room to improve.
Layman admits that in this "continuing space mission" genre, he plans on tackling several tropes. For many, it might be the usual tromp through space with the commanding officer who revels in breaking regulations. Upon initial reading, it is easy to step away thinking this. Layman really upends things by introducing several subplots. It is clear that Riggs has an ulterior motive for accepting this mission that none of the crew suspects, so there are bound to be surprises.
Space horror stories usually go very well or not at all, the genre can be a turn off for some. But Layman packs A LOT in the first six issues of Outer Darkness, there are exorcists, demons and laser guns! Also, a vast and exciting universe to really flesh out. Will Layman be able to keep readers intrigued? Outer darkness #7 hits shelves June 12th.