In Review: Outer Darkness #7

Only this series could make a literal haunted house in space work.

The cover: Seen from the point of view of Captain Rigg sitting in his chair on the bridge, the screen shows that the crew of the Charon are rapidly approaching a glowing green house. This is weird because 1. it’s green, 2. it’s glowing, and 3. they’re in space. This is the perfect teaser of what happens within this issue. Being a tremendous Star Trek fan (all series, but especially the classic), I love seeing ships encounter impossible objects in space, i.e. giant hands or heads. So, why not a house? Excellent job by Afu Chan. Overall grade: A+

The story: I thought there was no possible way to tell an actual haunted house story in space, and I do mean space, until now. This is scary! The issue opens with a flashback of young pre-Captain Rigg and the love of his life Rochelle in a dire situation that gets worse in a very unexpected way. Writer John Layman brings the story to the present where Rigg is confronting someone surprising, ending with some fantastic final words on Page 6. The conversation between Rigg and Agwe that follows is excellent, with them neatly summarizing the previous issues. The Charon has received an S.O.S. and is on its way to render assistance. Page 8 ends with an excellent tease before giving a three page history of what’s being seen, without showing what the object is. These three pages could have easily sustained a series on their own. The explanation for why the unknown object is in space is fantastic. Another flashback begins on 13, going back to 1942 in occupied France. It and the two pages that follow could have been a complete issue on their own for a horror book. This is one of Layman’s many strengths as a writer: he’s able to establish characters quickly with vast back stories that could be series on their own. The reveal on 18 had me surprised and excited, the action on 19 was killer, and the final page outstanding. What a stunning way to bring a new character into the book. Layman is making this book absolutely riveting. Overall grade: A+

The art and colors: I find myself absolutely mesmerized by the visuals created by Afu Chan for this book. I want — need — my aliens in science fiction books to look unlike anything I’ve seen before. He does that. Combined with the horror elements of this series, Chan is creating some of the best monsters I’ve seen in comic books. The opening page splash is a thrilling visual that reminded me of the wall of monsters from John Carpenter’s In the Mouth of Madness. The reds, obviously for a red alert, only increase the terror of what the characters are experiencing. This is followed by a graphic passing, which in turn is followed by a moment of tenderness. The transition between panels three and four on Page 4 is a great way to show the jump in time as the character ages, plus the colors add to the individual’s sickened state. The reveal at the bottom of 5 is fantastic! The transition between the second and third panels on 6 is killer. The flashback that begins on 9 looks amazing. Every panel is a horror or a preview of horrors to come. The object that’s in the center of 10 and 11 looks fantastic — that’s exactly what such a structure should look like! The parallelism between pages 12 and 13 is terrific, perhaps insinuating that the individual at the bottom of 13 is, or will be, as strong as the person at the bottom of 12. The second panel on 15 is one of the freakiest things I’ve seen in a comic book, and I’m as old as the hills. The motion of the vehicle at the top of 16 is cool and the speed lines that follow in the panels below make the vehicle extremely qucik. I love the dominant color on the final three pages, making every panel eerie. The casual attitude of the character on 18 is cool. The action on 19 is awesome and the reaction by the survivor on 20 perfect. Chan is a perfect illustrator. Overall grade: A+

The letters: Pat Brosseau is the book’s letterer, creating yells, dialogue, Gallu’s unique speech, scene settings and a character identifier, sounds, and the tease for next issue. The yells and screams in this book are massive, giving the reader a clear idea of the fear behind each. I love the additions to Rigg’s first dialogue balloon on 8: fitting and funny. The scene settings and the character identifier have this curvy 1980’s look to them, giving them a classic futuristic feel. Gallu’s speech font instantly has it as inhuman. The sounds are fun, be they creature utterances or sounds in space. The tease for next issue reminds me of classic Atari 2600 game font. Again, a classy 80’s feel. Love it! Overall grade: A+

The final line: Only this series could make a literal haunted house in space work. The story, in both the past and the present, is awesome, the visuals are killer, and the letters gold. This is a book I devour each month. This needs to be on everyone’s pull list. I can think of no better combination of horror and science fiction in print. 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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