In Review: Outer Darkness #4

If I had only one series to recommend to readers, this would be it.

The cover: A monstrous yellow statue, easily six stories tall, of an alien god or king sits in a chair looking into the void. Standing on his left hand is the Charon‘s Chief Navigator Elox. He’s standing casually with his hands in his coat’s pockets. Behind this pair is a starfield in red. This frontpiece teases so much that the interior reveals. Great cover by interior artist and colorist Afu Chan that keeps all its terrible secrets well. Overall grade: A

The story: This tale, written by John Layman, is narrated by Elox, the navigator aboard the Charon. He hates Captain Rigg because he can never remember his name. He goes on to tell the reader that the entire crew hates the captain, with First Officer Satalis scheming to be rid of him. The book opens with Elox reminding the captain of his name and then telling him that they’ve come upon a transmission from a ship that’s two hundred and thirty-five years old. “One crew member alive, in cryogenic sleep.” The captain wants to ignore this man, but he is “guaranteed,” which is “the most sacred compact between members of the Galactic Service. If someone is guaranteed, then (they) are obligated above all else to retrieve them.” The captain thinks it’s a bad idea, but the ship makes its way to the man. As they do so Elox reminiscences about his past, when he was a god. His backstory is amazing and shows that he’s biding his time until he can resume his past life. He hates the crew, as they are beneath him, with Corporal Sato Shin standing out as changed. And dangerous. That’s because it was revealed last issue that he’s actually a demon waiting to kill as many as he can aboard the ship. There is a terrific scene between the captain and Elox where each has questions for the other that aren’t answered. Though it’s only three pages long, it’s a great peek into what drives each character. The book ends with a double cliffhanger, with danger inside and outside the ship. Regardless, Elox is overjoyed if it means some of the crew are killed. This is fantastic reading. Overall grade: A+

The art and colors: The first page is a full-page splash of Elox staring at the reader with absolute hatred in his face. The coloring increases the sinister nature of his design. Oranges continue to dominate on the next four pages due to the low lights on the bridge and their computer displays bathing everything in this ominous light. I like how Rigg is bored by what he’s told on Page 3 until Satalis brings up being guaranteed. The panels on 4 and 5 are composed of five equal sized horizontal panels that allow characters to appear by themselves, to give weight to their words, or with others to remind the reader that this is occurring on the bridge of a starship. Pages 6 and 7 are a double-paged splash that calls back to the cover: a massive seated statue surrounded by minions on an alien world. The harsh red colors make this incredibly foreboding. The next page shows how Elox treated his people and it’s the stuff of nightmares. His stance in the first panel on 9 is killer and is in harsh contrast to how he’s shown in the second panel. The ship’s Navaterium is a neat setting and it’s a great place for the conversation that follows. I love how Afu Chan moves the point of view to focus on each character as they ask questions. Notice how when the character is avoiding the question they’re show to be far from the speaker and the reader. The violence on 18 is graphic for not only how it’s shown, but for the shock of red used to highlight the blood spilt; there can be no mistaking that someone has died. The Charon looks really cool on 19 . The final panel of the issue contains so much evil it’s a wonder that such small space can contain it. This book looks phenomenal. Overall grade: A+

The letters: Dialogue and narration (the same font), sounds, scene settings, yells, demonic speech, and the tease for next issue are crafted by Pat Brosseau. My only nit with Brosseau’s contributions is that the dialogue and the narration are the same font. They should be different visually, and not just by the shape or color of their balloons, because they are different forms of communication. That said, everything else is gold. The sounds are great, with the one on 19 fantastic. The scene settings are futuristic without being so far flung as to be unreadable. The yells are in different sizes and fonts so the reader may better hear their intensity. The demonic speech is brief but instantly tells the reader that the speaker is not human. Overall grade: A-

The final line: This is one of the best books available. The story is an incredible combination of science fiction and horror, with everyone keeping secrets from the other. The visuals are awesome, thrilling readers to advanced technology that falters before ancient evils. Everything about this book works and has me eagerly awaiting every issue. If I had only one series to recommend to readers, this would be it. Definitely not for young ones, but absolutely stellar for those craving something to terrify. 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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