‘Outer Darkness / Chew #1:’ Advance Comic Book Review

In space, far beyond the galaxy that we Earthlings know and love, lives the Outer Darkness.  John Layman fans have chewed on the new sci-fi series since 2018, and this may be the start of his most fulfilling story yet.  The self-proclaimed science fiction geek, best known for the Eisner Award-winning series, Chew, has been working full-time on his new passion project with artist Afu Chan.  The new series is imaginative and unique in all the best ways, but still die-hard fans of the Chew series have pondered if we'd see Tony, Colby, and Poyo ever again.  Not since issue #60 has the courageous Cibopath and his adventures graced the Image Comics catalog.  Until now.  Outer Darkness / Chew is the crossover event that comic book fans never knew they wanted but deserve more than ever.   

Outer Darkness follows Captain Joshua Rigg, commander of the Charon, on a deployment into the outer darkness. The space beyond the known galaxy, where life forms are but a dream.  Though the endless void of space outside the Charon is home to roaming ancient demons; the mysteries aboard the ship are what keep readers turning the pages.  The crew is as visually interesting as they are secretive, with twists and turns reminiscent of a galactic soap opera.  

Outer Darkness is obviously a story that matters to creator John Layman.  Toward the end, Chew became increasingly more sci-fi influenced, so much that his love of Star Trek and the genre were the catalysts to this new series.  I really believe this new Layman/Chan series is certainly a reason why science fiction #StoriesMatter.   Although the medium of comic books has the ability to bring to life any type of tale, more often than not the sci-fi elements of comics are left to blaster wielding “cape and cowl” stories.  The Guardians of the Galaxy and The Fantastic 4 are very popular science fiction franchises, but, ultimately, superhero comics.   The Outer Darkness was Layman’s chance to couple the absurd comedy horror stylings of Chew with the creator's longtime passion for sci-fi storytelling.  

Chew takes place in the present-day world, where poultry meats are illegal after a catastrophic outbreak of the bird flu that killed 23 million Americans.  The story centers around Tony Chu, a police detective who is a Cibopath. (He learns the life story of every food he ingests.)

Outer Darkness / Chew looks as fun as it is to read.  Afu Chan’s art pops off the page in a familiar Rob Guillory style.  The contrast of the two artists is most apparent when the pages switch between the artists’ hands.  In the Chew time, Guillory takes the illustrator role, but whenever we are in the Outer Darkness time period, Chan is the penciller.  It’s a fun way to jump from each timeline, and readers are lucky to have both artists contribute in the same series.   

This initial issue starts aboard the Charon, with Riggs sitting down to a space meal with a Cibulaxian, a dignitary of an alien race that communicates only through eating. In most cases, Riggs would scoff at the waste of time with this diplomatic dining experience, but the good faith feast will hopefully allow the crew to travel safely through Ciulzxaians space, making their travels faster and more profitable.  Unfortunately, the species get their wires crossed, and an unknowing chef is pummeled for his poor showing.  That’s when we pick up with two familiar faces in the present day.  

Seeing Robery Guillory return to draw his characters in the Earth flashback is special.  As a Chew reader since issue #1, I didn’t know how much I missed these characters. Having the original artist return really differentiates the time frame from the “present” (hundreds of years in the future) to the past (21st century Chew time).  Tony Chu and Colby banter like old times while doing their best beat cop impersonations.  This is the first interaction between these two since 2016, and it doesn’t take long before they find themselves in a sticky situation.  (Pun very much intended.)  Right as a group of maniacal mounties hopped up on an LSD-laced maple syrup trip, the FDA partners are beamed up to the Outer Darkness.  And the crossover begins.   

The remainder of the story is Tony and Colby acclimating to their newfound mission. Riggs and the crew have pulled a plan B and require Chu’s cibopath abilities for diplomatic purposes.  Or so it seems once some pleasantries are made and we get to see Chan’s sleek design of the Guillory characters.  At this point, the reader and the boys from the past let their guards’ down and accept this crossover with open arms.  Psych.  That would be too easy.  The final page reveals that Colby has found the true reason he and Chu were brought aboard in the Outer Darkness, and judging by his cyborg expression, it ain’t good.

I loved this initial issue.  It gave me all the feels I had been missing from the lack of Chew in my life and reaffirmed that I should be reading more Outer Darkness.  But first, let's see what this crossover has cooking.


Creative Team:  John Layman (writer), Guillory (artist), Afu Chan (cover artist)
Publisher:  Image Comics
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