Review – Nocterra #1: Into the Darkness

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Nocterra #1 cover, via DC Comics.

Nocterra #1 – Scott Snyder, Writer; Tony S. Daniel, Artist; Tomeu Morey, Colorist

Ray – 9.5/10

Ray: Scott Snyder has been one of DC’s dominant voices for the last decade, and that’s meant his superhero work has often overshadowed his excellent creator-owned output. But as he steps away from being a DC architect, it’s time for him to launch what might be his biggest creator-owned book ever – the epic sci-fi horror Nocterra, with DC veteran artist Tony Daniel. When this was first announced via a massively successful Kickstarter, many people wondered if Daniel’s often flashy superhero art was the right fit for a story cloaked in darkness. But after reading this first issue, I can’t say I would change a single piece of this phenomenal first issue. It’s another big win for Image Comics in a very strong start to 2021.

Set in a world where the sun set in the middle of the day one day and never rose again, the story is grounded in the story of two adopted siblings, Val and Emory. Val, who had an eye disorder as a child that influences the way she sees this new world, now works as a long-range trucker between outposts – an extremely dangerous job. Emory is more of a wild card, working in a lab and concealing a dangerous secret. While we’ve still only seen glimpses of their relationship and past in this oversized first issue, Snyder’s dialogue does a great job of selling us on these characters in only a few pages. But while the characters may not be groundbreaking yet, the world they exist in is.

The world of Nocterra is much more than a permanent solar eclipse. We actually see it happen as the sky gets blacked out, but the darkness is only part one. The bigger threat is the mutations it causes – creating beings called Shades. When exposed to the darkness long enough, people, animals, and plants start to change and be converted by living shadows. That has created a world full of murderous animals that attack Val’s truck as she ferries people to outposts filled with artificial light, but it apparently also converts humans – in a way we haven’t fully seen yet. And the infection can be stopped, but only for a short period – making the presence of the infected a constant source of danger and paranoia in the outposts.

This is essentially a very old-fashioned comic set in a very original world. The visuals are spectacular, both in the darkness and in the light, but at its core it’s a simple story of how far someone would go to save the person they love. Val is soon tempted by a risky mission by a mysterious figure with an agenda she doesn’t quite understand, and a journey into the unknown begins. But before the issue ends, we get our first glimpse of a major villain – and in only a few pages, Snyder reminds us of why he’s one of the best horror writers and villain-creators in comics. This feels like the beginning of a new long-running epic, and it’s an absolutely essential read for anyone looking for the creator-owned books that people will be talking about in 2021.

GeekDad received this comic for review purposes.

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