In Review: Outer Darkness #5

This is creepy and frightening to read, but I can't look away. Highest possible recommendation.

The cover: It looks as though the Charon had to make an unexpected landing on a icy world, given the amount of smoke coming out of it. Walking away from the downed ship is Military Commander Baxter, followed by Corporal Sato Shin, with First Officer Alastor Satalis behind him. Accompanying this trio is the Crone’s cat. There’s trouble in their immediate future since the reader is aware that Shin has been possessed by a demon for the last two issues. Great ominous image with the colors spectacular. This cover comes courtesy of interior artist and colorist Afu Chan. Overall grade: A

The story: This is a strange beginning, even for this series. On Trellis-86, a New Avalon colony world, little Kayzi hides in her room screaming for her mother. A figure enters with an ax in his hand. “Your mommy’s dead, little girl.” It’s Watnick, who used to work with the girl’s fahter. He doesn’t know if he’s killed the monster, but he thinks he’s bought them enough time to get out. The two run outside, past bodies that litter the ground. They make to the transrover and he has its back storage open. Something is in there and the two join the fate of the others. Writer John Layman then moves the story to one hundred and twenty-five years earlier aboard the Charon, what the followers of this series had considered “the present.” Two characters are about to have an intimate moment, but Captain Rigg’s call to battle stations ends that possibility. An explosion has occurred on level six in the starboard cargo area where they were storing the cryotube of Lt. Toppo, a possessed man. The Charon is forced to make a hard landing, with people dying and others hurt. There’s a sensational confrontation between the captain and some of his bridge crew, ending with Satalis being told to investigate the mountains. Another team, led by the captain, is going to exorcise any remaining demons in the Charon. Things take a dramatic turn on the last two pages that has me wondering if Layman can really do all of this in the fifth issue of this young series. I mean, now what?! The most terrifying panel is fifth panel on Page 15. And how do the first four pages, set in the future, impact this series? This is creepy and frightening to read, but I can’t look away. Overall grade: A+

The art and colors: The first four pages of this book, illustrated and colored by Afu Chan, are pure terror. The first panel introduces a lovely rural setting with a fire burning in the middle of a settlement. The entrance by Watnick in the bottom panel is outstanding. The joy on his and Kayzi’s face on Page 3 is the joy of every survivor who sees their escape from terror so close. The reveal in the final panel is purposefully dim to make the reader pull the book up close to strain to see what is barely visible. The action on 4 is graphic, bloody, and a nightmare realized. The orange colors of the final three panels increase the shock. The transition on the next page to the naked female body is a jarring experience, which is only exacerbated by the reveal of who this character truly is. Coloring everything red increases the intimacy of what’s to occur, as well as the supernatural abilities in play. The third panel on Page 7 is a gorgeous image of the explosion that happens on the Charon. The colors are fantastic. The progression of panels on 9 is a terrific way to show the ship’s descent. Pages 10 and 11 are a double-paged splash that shows the Charon and some of its survivors on the surface of the icy world. The ship looks great and I love the scale of the crew to it. The back and forth between Rigg and his officers is awesome, with the action on 13 powerful. The emotions on 14 add considerably to what is said. The most chilling images are in the fourth and fifth panels on 15. I love the look of the suits on 16 and look forward to seeing more of them in the next issue. The slow approach in the first two panels of 19 is like watching a snake slither up on its prey. The violence of the third panel is shocking and the lack of colors or images in the final panel on the page will make the reader’s heart skip a beat. The final image of the book is staggering for what is shown, leaving one wondering how there is any hope to overcome this foe. Magic and monstrous work by Chan. Overall grade: A+

The letters: Pat Brosseau is the letterer of this book, creating screams, scene settings, dialogue and transmissions (the same font), and sounds. The scream of terror by Kayzi is a good introduction of what the reader can expect of the opening four pages. The scene settings are in a slick thin font that look as if they came from a futuristic computer. The first sound is in the final panel on Page 4 and it’s horrible and absolutely appropriate for what is shown. The explosion on 7 is massive and looks terrific. The sound effect on 13 is perfect for the action that’s taken. The tiny sound in the second panel on 19 is a nasty precursor to the more violent sound that follows in the next panel. My only nit with Brosseau’s work is that the transmissions that are in the final panel on this page are the same font as the dialogue; as a different form of communication, they should be in a different visual so the reader can make this leap. Granted, they are in a different shaped dialogue balloon, but I would rather they be visually separated from common conversation. The final three words of the book tease the next issue and are in more primitive looking computer font which intensifies the cliffhanger the reader is left with. Overall grade: A

The final line: This is a MUST-BUY book for any fan of science fiction or horror. This is a frightening, horrific, and thrilling story set in the stars. The characters are original and engaging and the visuals capture the grandeur and nightmares of space. This earns my 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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