Review by Frank Plowright
Joshua Rigg is captain of the Charon, a spacecraft sent into a dangerous area to retrieve something or someone as yet unknown. His methods of command are divisive, and as seen in At Each Other’s Throats, several high ranking officers are actively plotting his death, something he realises and has so far been one step ahead. No, this isn’t the Enterprise as you know it.
As if to underline that, John Layman’s opening chapter concerns a haunted house subject to an exorcism during World War II that has ended up in deep space occupied by a parasitic demon. This is space opera, but instead of aliens it’s the supernatural that’s the threat, so among his crew Rigg has fortune tellers, voodoo specialists, exorcists, and alchemists. That’s in addition to the one time merciless intergalactic tyrant, a demon kept tortured, a powerful entity that actually powers the ship, and now a nun from 1942 as well.
Given the horrors funnelled into Outer Darkness, it’s something to be thankful for that Afu Chan’s chosen artistic method is cartooning rather than realism. Even so, there are some gruesome scenes, and a lot of blood colour required as both crew and demons go about their regular violent business.
For all that, while the opening chapters still have the knife to the guts value of At Each Other’s Throats, the remaining content isn’t as provocative or interesting. The crew are still nasty, the demons still a threat, but they read as if Layman’s only stalling until the end, which isn’t an ending at all, but the lead-in to the teaming with another of Layman’s features in Outer Darkness/Chew. There has been an escalation of plot, and a change of circumstances, but Outer Darkness has stalled.