America has been plunged into a debilitating and terror-transforming darkness. A darkness that the survivors of this sudden globe spanning disaster have had to adapt. Like Undiscovered Country, Nocterra seems to be another dystopian road trip across America, but in the dark. Only time will tell if it’s too close for comfort, but it’s still a promising debut issue nonetheless.
There’s something about creator owned titles that bring out the best in those able to do them, and Tony S Daniel’s artwork on Nocterra #1 is a mighty fine example of this being the case. Having followed him since his stint on Batman over a decade ago now, as well as the many other titles he has illustrated since, he has matured into the kind of powerhouse artist anyone would die to work with. And although Scott Snyder hasn’t had to do that, he must be thanking himself each and every day for the work Daniel’s has produced for the debut issue of Nocterra from Image Comics.
It may be cast as a dystopian science fiction story first and foremost, but with Snyder’s roots in the gothic, the dark world of tomorrow these two establish is full of horrors living in the shadows. And when the world is enveloped in shadows – shadows that transform any that linger too long into monstrous versions of themselves – there is a lot to fear. Think Pitch Black via The Mist, and you get something of the tone established in this opener.
Living in constant fear and darkness we meet our narrator and hero, Val Riggs, a jobbing “ferryman” picking up and delivering all and anything across a wild and dangerous dark frontier for cash. The world she once knew has long been like this – as she informs readers across the span of this first issue – and she herself is no stranger to darkness either.
After a polite introduction and scene setter – the day the Earth was plunged into darkness – we are thrown into an all action sequence as Val shows us her mettle by taking on the nasties that have taken back world and forced humanity to live in communities not too dissimilar to the kind of ramshackle hives of humanity seen in The Walking Dead. Although the outpost we see come into sight is far from the ominous communities of the aforementioned zombie book. It’s a wonderful ocean book that sets out its intent to be a action-packed tale with plenty of monsters lurking juts out of sight.
Tomeu Morey’s colours are equally outstanding as the writing and the art. In a world plunged into darkness, he certainly seem to be able to add a good deal of colour. Whether that’s the deceptively colourful blue and purple hues of the dark and open roads, or the sepia tinted widescreen shot of Val’s final destination and the sanctuary her and her brother seem to call home, it elevates the art to another level. Look closely and the more subtle use of colour brings a certain three dimensional quality to many panels, giving characters a more fleshed out feel and creates a depth to the art.
The one down side? Well, it may be a very different and gothic dystopian representation of America in the near-future (aren’t they all these days?), but with the road trip angle underpinning the whole saga moving forward, I cannot help but feel it’s a narrative form and structure too close to what Snyder is already exploring over on his other Image Comics’ title, Undiscovered Country. Of course, issue by issue, chapter by chapter, Nocterra will undoubtably be a different story in may ways, but the initial set up here seems too close for comfort for me. And I’m already praying thos doesn’t become a “monster of the month” style of book. When you’re as versatile a writer as Snyder having two books out that are essentially road trips from Hell, but in a dystopian future, isn’t necessarily a good look. Even if the art most definitely is.
Nocterra #1 will be out Wednesday March 3rd from Image Comics.