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‘Outer Darkness / Chew #2:’ Advance Comic Book Review

It’s been almost 3 months since John Layman and Afu Chan’s Outer Darkness/Chew debut issue hit the shelves, and it would have been science fiction to guess that the “shelves” would be vacant of new comic books until last week.  The sophomore issue of the crossover event of the century was worth the wait, and our meager ideas of science fiction are no match for what beholds the mind and pencil of Layman and Chan.  This is sci-fi that doesn’t shy away from tropes but embraces and gives them a much-needed upgrade.  For as our times get weirder, the medium’s job is to take us to more outrageous worlds.  

To catch everyone up, Tony Chu is a present-day cop/FDA Agent who gets psychic impressions from what he eats.  Chu and his cyborg partner Colby were abducted by Joshua Rigg, a 28th-century starship captain who flies through an outer space filled with demons in his vessel, the Charon, which is fueled by ghosts.  Captain Rigg requires passage through Cibulaxian space, a short-tempered tentacled species that only communicates through eating. This is where Chu’s unique abilities come in.  While the first issue set up the premise of this crossover, we were left on a cliffhanger when Colby discovered not only the real reason they were abducted but where exactly they were abducted from.  This issue reveals this insane twist, dripping in so much meta that Grant Morrison would be proud. But, not to worry; I won’t spoil any specifics.  Just buy this book!

John Layman shouldered the difficult task of combining his two worlds, centuries apart and who knows how many galaxies away, and melding them in a seamless way.  His dialogue is hilarious as ever, but his real gift is delivering so much information in interesting and natural ways. Where a lot of sci-fi dialogue comes off as explanatory expository, Layman’s unique characterization techniques and tempo of words gives the reader an easy-to-digest, yet intricate, story.  His use of non-linear storytelling isn’t overdone in this issue, but Layman saves his seemingly favorite method for the most exciting moments of the book.  This issue is dripping with self-reference and though the characters do not break the fourth wall, the creators sledgehammer down the remaining three for the reader’s amusement.  

Where Outer Darkness/Chew #1 reunited the multiple Eisner Award-winning Chew team, writer John Layman and artist Rob Guillory, the Outer Darkness artistic genius Afu Chan grabs hold of the visual reins and never looks back.  Always a fan of using nontraditional panels to tell his stories, Chan’s style complements Layman’s comedy with some hilarious gags of his own.  Chan exemplifies the full gamut of his expressive storytelling skills in the page where Chu finally sits down to dine with the Cibulaxian leader.  The cibopath has his first taste of 28th-century cuisine, and we see Chu’s expression through each and every course.  Chan draws the gross, horrofic, and sorrow-filled origins of these alien delicacies and the agent’s disgust with each bite.  Having Chu consume the psychic expressions of intergalactic grub was a scene I knew was imperative to the story, but I didn’t know how important it was until I saw it on the page.  Kudos to Chan and Layman for keeping this scene brief, but impactful.  

Layman and Chan are firing on all creative cylinders and rocketing readers through the cosmos, rewriting sci-fi tropes and setting the bar deep into the outer darkness.  This issue ends with Chu and Colby calling on some old friends to help them escape their predisposed demise, and it will surely lead to an amazing finale.  I wish this book would last for longer than three issues, but who would’ve thought we would get a self-referential space horror book that starred the Chew crew?  Not me, but I’m going to start expecting every sci-fi book to be this special, knowing full well that I’ll be leaving my hopes in outer space.  

Creative Team: John Layman (writer),  Afu Chan (artist)
Publisher: Image Comics
Click here to purchase.

Billy Peden, Fanbase Press Guest Contributor



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