John Layman and Afu Chan’s marvellous sci-fi/horror series Outer Darkness returns to stores this week after it’s mid-season break with one of their weirder and more wonderful installments as the crew of The Charon come across a haunted house. That’s right, a haunted house. Drifting in space. And, it’s not the only moments of dramatic revelation in this book either.
Opening up several decades earlier, we witness a rare glimpse into the backstory of The Charon’s current captain and all-round rouge, Joshua Rigg, and a memory from his past that could be a clue to Rigg’s current status as a grade A asshole. I feel we have a long way to go yet before we really get to grips with one of the least loved members of The Charon, but this remembered moment is a tantalising taste of his past nonetheless. A memory that the onboard engine, and once-proud god, Gallu himself, tries to use to hypnotically ensnare Rigg, to no avail. On the USS Enterprise its the dilithium crystals they have to watch out for. Here, it’s a captured and very angry god. And, this god can’t take it much longer, that’s for sure. As well as everything else, we know have the space ship itself to watch out for. I can’t see this ending well.
The Amityville Horror meets Star Trek is the obvious comparison, but this book is far more than this, as anyone who’s been reading it can attest to. As far as sci-fi series go, there really isn’t anything like this on the shelves today, and with the introduction of this haunted house, plus a mysterious new character too, it’s a strange, original idea that worked really well on this reader. We get a genuinely macabre history of this haunted house that wouldn’t feel out of place in any contemporary horror anthology, while in contrast with this we have the sci-fi sensibilities so familiar to us from our own countless viewings of Star Trek, Babylon 5 and other such space-faring TV shows; all blended together like a satisfying gumbo. Although, one of the keys to this book’s success is artist Afu Chan, who shows he is just as comfortable with his foot on both sci-fi and horror and returns with his animation-like style that I’d die to see replicated as an animated series. Netflix, I hope you’re taking note.
As for the new character? Well, it’s an interesting addition and one that draws the crew further and further down the road of horror. In space, no-one can hear you scream, so I doubt they’ll hear you pray for your lives either. Something, I fear, the crew will need to be doing on more than one occasion in the near future.
It’s one crazy ride of a book and a worthy jumping on point for anyone who wants to get onboard. With the promise of future issues focusing on a different crew member – like several of the previous issues – and more done-in-one stories, I look forward to the remainder of this first season and getting to know the various crew members more intimately. Care to join me?
Outer Darkness #7 is out Wednesday, the 12th of June from Skybound/Image Comics.