In Review: Outer Darkness #3

This is absolutely a must-read series. Highest possible recommendation.

The cover: Corporal Sato Shin lies in a grave shaped in the form of an ankh. His arms are crossed on his chest, but his eyes are open and there appears to be fluid running from his eyes. The rocks that were encountered as his grave was dug litter about, with some joining him in the hole. Only three issues in and Shin is dead? An interesting cover that spectacular tease the terrors of this book. Great cover by Afu Chan. I like that the grave is an ankh, as it’s an ancient religious symbol and this book, this series, is certainly all about. Overall grade: A

The story: The issue starts with a report log by Corporal Sato Shin, stating the details of the salvage mission that occurred on asteroid ring of Amano-14. Six members of the USS Charon’s crew on are on an asteroid looking for a derelict ship. As they make their way, Shin and Malona Hydzek talk, wondering why each got stuck with the other, as they’re not popular with Captain Rigg. As they get closer to the dead vessel, a hand comes out of the ground and grabs Hydzek’s foot. As she looks down at what’s caught her, a possessed dead Dryx stabs her in the back. Another of the creatures severs Shin’s torso from his body. John Layman then takes his story back two hours earlier to explain why the ship stopped at this location and then returns to the present. What follows is a twisted story to show how any crew member’s death isn’t necessarily a final fate. The souls of the dead can be retrieved. Before an attempt is made, there’s some interesting background given on one of the victims that will have repercussions for all in this series. I like the point of view on Page 13, which is bizarre and somewhat terrifying. The actions on 15 – 17 are awesome, creepy, and on the edge of blaspheme. The conversation on 18 and 19 is riveting — it’s exactly what one would expect to occur given what’s happened. I like the tease of the second and third panels on 19 that show that one person is not having an easy time of things. Again, this is exactly what one would expect. The final page is the jaw-dropper. Something has changed and it’s going to cause immense problems at some point in this series. I love the action, the horrors, and the twisted technology of this book. Overall grade: A+

The art and colors: I really like the visuals by Afu Chan. This is first and foremost a horror book. Second it’s a science fiction tale. To combine these two genres as a story would be difficult, but to do them visually is a difficult task. Chan makes it look deceptively simple. The first page resembles the opening to many a sci-fi tale: the crew’s ship is shown, the alien setting is shown, and then the crew members are shown at this location. The colors to this page really increase the believability of the story: space filled with violet miasma and white lights of uncountable stars, the harsh oranges of the asteroid ring and world, and then the tiny, almost impotent, characters making their way across the vista. Notice all the greens used for the letters that give them an instant mechanical feel. The design of the characters’ spacesuits is great. They look futuristic, yet plausible. There are several characters in the crew that aren’t human, with Hydzek the first encountered. Her sharp features make her a standout, even in her suit. And how about the cool oranges of the face masks for the characters that tell the reader, without text, that within they can breathe? The action at the bottom of 3 is startling, as the reader expected a threat from below, not behind. The background goes a shocking yellow to amplify the violence. Pages 4 and 5 are a double-paged spread showing Hydzek in the foreground, while behind here are several Dryx emerging from the ground, with one slicing Shin in half. The colors are brutal oranges, reds, and yellow. The Charon hangs in the sky, a dark spot illuminated in ghostly blues, seemingly indifferent to the action below it. Oranges return on the bridge before Elox, making his alien face hellish. The Crone looks like a traditional witch, save the monstrous bat ears that emerge from the top of her hood — she looks great! The action on 9 is epic, using both tech and magic to take down the dead Dryx. The floating blood and torso on 11 is disturbing. I love the first three panels on 13 which show something that has always nagged humanity. The second and third panels on Page 19 are a terrific contrast to the conversation that’s occurring; makes the speaker incredibly strong. There’s no text on the final page, save a scene setting, and the visuals are awesome. The visuals have to be strong to communicate to the reader what is being witnessed and they are chilling. The final panel is killer. This series has made me a fan of Chan’s work. Overall grade: A+

The letters: Pat Brosseau creates this issue’s text, which covers the report log, dialogue and transmissions (the same font), sounds, scene settings, indecipherable spells, and the tease for next issue. I really like how Brosseau has unique fonts for the log, scene settings, and the tease for next issue. All three have got a streamlined futuristic look, but are different, making the reader realize when they encounter each text that the book is communicating with them in a different way. Very cool. That said, I am a little bummed that the dialogue and transmissions are the same font, only differed by the shape of the dialogue balloons. The should also look different. The sounds are horrors on the page, with 3 having two creepers, with that final one on the page matching the violence of the action. Overall grade: A

The final line: This is absolutely a must-read series. The horror is epic. The science fiction flavors are delicious. This is a warped combination of genres that will have you wondering if man should ever go into space. I hunger for each issue, but fear where it will take me. Highest possible recommendation. Overall grade: A

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Patrick Hayes was a contributor to the Comic Buyer's Guide for several years with "It's Bound to Happen!" and he's reviewed comics for TrekWeb and TrekCore. He's taught 8th graders English for 20 years and has taught high school English for five years and counting. He reads everything as often as he can, when not grading papers or looking up Star Trek, Star Wars, or Indiana Jones items online.
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