NOCTERRA, ISSUES #1-3
Writer: Scott Snyder
Illustrator: Tony S. Daniel
Publisher: Image Comics
WHAT IS IT?
Nocterra is a bombastic action road trip that ferries readers through a nightmarish wasteland full of mutated wildlife and bloodthirsty mercenaries.
Snyder’s own love of American trucker culture is evident throughout, making for a masterful mash-up of Ice Road Truckers and the sci-fi thriller Pitch Black.
WHAT’S IT ABOUT?
The sun is gone, and only darkness remains. Human society has reshaped itself around one simple rule: any living thing caught in the darkness for too long is forever changed into a monstrous shade.
Thirteen years have passed since “The Big PM” and Val ‘Sundog’ Riggs is working as a ferryman, transporting people between the remaining human settlements. Due to childhood cataracts, Val has spent most of her life in the dark, making her tough and distant from all except her dying brother.
Running out of options to save her brother’s life, she takes her most dangerous job yet: ferrying Dr. Augustus McCray north through the most dangerous parts of the country, to a laboratory that holds the key to bringing back the light. But is the old man telling the truth? And why will the vicious mercenary Black Top Bill stop at nothing to kill him before he reaches his destination?
Snyder proves once again that he is an expert in crafting bombastic action set-pieces, supported by powerful character moments.
Daniel’s art is stunningly detailed and realistic, with some of the best character designs in modern comics.
Morey’s colours are nothing short of beautiful, really making the most of the contrasts between brightly lit safe spaces and the dangers lurking in the dark.
AndWorld’s lettering is clear and easily legible. It does a good job of communicating who is speaking, and also embodying their dialogue with different tones.
Snyder’s established penchant for bad-ass, emotionally damaged characters is on full display. Once again he succeeds in making each one memorable and emotionally resonant.
The world-building is deep and immersive. Snyder and Daniel make the most of the thirteen years of darkness to create a world that’s only barely recognizable as our own.
Daniel’s designs for the shades are creatively monstrous. Creating creatures that were once familiar to us, but irrevocably twisted by years spent evolving in the dark.
Despite all the darkness, Snyder manages to imbue the narrative with an inherent hopefulness, and it’s easy to get quickly attached to these new characters.
Issue #1 is perhaps the best first issue I’ve read in some time. Characters and the world are well established, and interesting mysteries are set up for later pay-off. It’s no surprise that its creators are some of the most experienced and decorated professionals in comics.
WHAT DOESN’T WORK?
As is typical with Snyder’s work, it is exposition-heavy, with a near-constant internal monologue. Typically these serve to explain an aspect of the world and its history, or how society functions post-PM. The world-building itself is great, but its delivery is distractingly blunt.
The scientific explanation for The Big PM is convoluted and ridiculous in an almost satirically comic book fashion. Some people might like the cheese, but it would’ve been better left vague.
There's not much time allotted to emotionally connect to Val’s brother, and the only reason to care for him is because she does. This still works, but it’s limited at best considering the personal stakes relate directly to his survival. Hopefully, we’ll learn more about him later in the series.
WHY SHOULD I READ IT?
The opening issues of Nocterra serve as a brilliant entry point to an adrenaline-fueled road trip through a nightmarish vision of the United States. It takes time to thoroughly flesh out both the remnants of human society and the ecology of the twisted wilderness, expertly filling the narrative space afforded by the relatively simple premise with originality and heart.
Snyder himself has talked openly about how his own childhood fear of the dark, one that now plagues his young son, influenced the conception of Nocterra. That personal stake in the narrative really shines through and makes for one of the most engaging aspects of the book. Despite all the action and bombast, this is clearly a very personal story, and makes for an effective palette-cleanser to some of his recent DC work.
Whatever qualms you might have about Snyder’s previous work will likely still be here, but Nocterra is filled with great characters and an underlying sense of hope that made his early work resonate so strongly with readers.
WHAT DO I READ NEXT?
If you like the writing?
Wytches (2014) by Scott Snyder & Jock.
Y: The Last Man (2002) by Brian K. Vaughn & Pia Guerra.
Broken Gargoyles (2020) by Bob Salley & Stan Yak.
If you like the art?
Deathstroke (2014) by Tony S. Daniel.
Batman/Catwoman (2021) by Tom King & Clay Mann.
Once And Future (2019) by Kieron Gillen & Dan Mora.
ABOUT THE CREATORS
Scott Snyder (@Ssnyder1835) – Writer
An American comic writer most notably known for his work at DC Comics writing Batman, Justice League, and Dark Knights: Metal.
He’s currently stepping back to focus on creator owned work, through his published Best Jacket. Nocterra is it’s first published title.
Worked at Disney World after graduating college!
Tony S. Daniel (@TonyDanielx2) – Artist
An American artist known also known for his work at DC Comics, including Batman, Teen Titans, and The Flash.
His early indie work led him to jobs in Hollywood, until he returned to DC in 2005.
Tomeu Morey (@tomeu_morey) – Colourist
A Spanish illustrator and colourist, known for a variety of work for DC Comics.
Previously worked with Tony S. Daniel, providing colours for the 2014 Deathstroke run.
AndWorld (@andworlddesign) – Letterer
A lettering design studio founded by Eisner, Harvey and Ringo nominated letterer, Deron Bennet.
Have previously worked with DC Comics, Marvel, BOOM Studios, and many more.
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