Nocterra, the new series by comic veterans Scott Snyder and Tony S. Daniel kicked off this week with a brilliant first issue. We’re introduced to our lead, Val Riggs (also referred to by her callsign “sundog”) as a child on the eve of a massive global catastrophe– something has blotted out the sun, plunging the world into perpetual night. If that weren’t enough,  this new pervading darkness spreads through all living things like an infection, assimilating whatever it touches after 10 hours of exposure and leaving the world decimated by the monstrous shades of animals and humans alike.
Fast forward 13 years– Val is now a ferryman, the new title given to truckers who make their living hauling precious cargo to and from the few remaining human outposts. What follows is just a taste of what’s to come, but it’s an incredibly intriguing one that expertly balances world-building and characters.
The first thing to jump out at me here was the art– it almost goes without saying that a power team like this would produce something wonderful to look at. Still, there are a few things that make nocterra visually distinct. The first is its bold designs, which really showcase artist Tony Daniel’s background with DC and superhero material, and which feel less than typical for an independent series.  It’s not often an original concept like this leans into the blockbuster comics look,  but it works very well for this brand of high octane action horror.
I’d also be remiss not to mention Tomeu Morey’s colorwork throughout this book.  “Dazzling” and “vivid” may not be the words that spring to mind when you hear the elevator pitch of “eternal night which turns all living things into murderous monsters” but I assure you they’re apt descriptors. The darkness of the setting lets Morey go wild with lighting effects, saturation, and contrast to create all sorts of neon goodies for the eyes.  There are also plenty of panels that rely on lower-tech and more traditional lighting, and the warmth of these gives the LEDs and neons room to breathe.
The final note about the art of nocterra is how seamlessly it ties to the narrative– it’s evident that Tony Daniel and Scott Snyder have a clear vision for this world and its unique stipulations. If there’s a clever use for light and electricity in this setting I’m sure we either already have seen or will see it.  Daniel is able to strongly reinforce the setting with subtle (and occasionally not so subtle) visual elements throughout which would make the book rewarding to flip through even if the writing were bad.
Good news, it’s not! I wouldn’t go into Nocterra #1 looking for crazy depth or introspection (and why would you, it’s the first issue of an action-horror story), but there’s something to be said about how timely a story like this can be and how well-positioned this one is. Sure, the story may be about monstrously corrupted nightmare creatures, but Snyder is actually riffing on isolation, transformation, and adapting to new ways of life in order to survive– ideas I imagine we’re all personally familiar with by now. More to the book’s benefit is that for as heavy as those topics could be, the whole thing is kept light enough to still be fun while resonating.Plus,  Nocterra has not one, but two really cool antagonists: Shades,  which have at this point mutated into their own strange biome, and Blacktop Bill,  a newcomer introduced at the end of the issue who is hellbent on apprehending Val’s cargo. These each add their own welcome element of hostility to the world. The Shades we’ve seen thus far are a primal force of destruction akin to a natural disaster, and I admit that outside of their designs I didn’t find them quite intimidating enough to stand alone yet. I’m sure that will change once we get a look at the human shades, which are referred to mostly as bogeymen this time around. Luckily, even in his very brief time on the page, Blacktop Bill adds just enough malevolence to round out the tension and make the whole story much more threatening.  Mix all of this with a darkened world corrupting and eradicating its own inhabitants, and you’re left with a pressure cooker of a story that will leave readers hungry for more.Rating

9/10 Bulbs

Pullquotes

” “Dazzling” and “vivid” may not be the words that spring to mind when you hear the elevator pitch of “eternal night which turns all living things into murderous monsters” but I assure you they’re apt descriptors”

“it’s evident that Tony Daniel and Scott Snyder have a clear vision for this world and its unique stipulations. If there’s a clever use for light and electricity in this setting I’m sure we either already have seen or will see it.”

“Sure, the story may be about monstrously corrupted nightmare creatures, but Snyder is actually riffing on isolation, transformation, and adapting to new ways of life in order to survive– ideas I imagine we’re all personally familiar with by now”

About the Author: Kyle Holl

By Published On: March 9, 2021Categories: Book Reviews, Graphic Novels, PrintComments Off on NOCTERRA #1 is a Dazzling Start to a Timely and Original ApocalypseTags: , , , , ,