Nocterra #1 review

The darkest hour is just before the dawn. But dawn hasn’t come for a long time in the world of Nocterra. It was just another day for Denver schoolgirl Val when the sky went dark, and 13 years later, it’s still pitch black.

And everyone knows there are monsters lurking in the dark…

The new Image series from Scott Snyder’s and Tony S Daniel introduces us to Val Riggs and her world, an Earth changed beyond recognition by ‘The Big PM’. She’s ‘Sundog’, a ‘ferryman’, and while she does ask for payment, she’s not taking souls to the land of the dead – she’s giving them a chance of survival in a world where ten seconds without light could end you. And once you’re in Val’s 18-wheeler, she’s going to do everything in her power to protect you. This is a woman with, no pun intended, real drive. Armed with light-based weapons courtesy of her brother Emory, Val takes on the creatures that come for the few humans not yet absorbed into a horrifying new ecosystem.

Scott Snyder produces a heck of a story here – it grabbed me on page one and never let go. Val’s narration explains the rules of the new world order and with the exposition laid out against action, courtesy of Andworld Design’s smart lettering, there’s no question of being overwhelmed by infodump. It’s a trick not every writer can pull off and, used properly, is a powerful tool.

After the opening flashback, and action sequence, Snyder settles back and shows us the new society, introducing us to characters and conflicts, internal and external. The visuals of Tony S Daniel and colour artist Tomeu Morey are attractive even when they’re showing the horror of Val’s world – the ‘Shades’ are fearsome but it’s hard to look away. Then there are the improvised light suits of the refugees, the freaky funfair vibes of the ‘Outposts’, the look of Val herself – this is great storytelling.

There’s a reason Val has been able to adjust to the Big PM better than most, one that adds to the John Wyndham vibe of this cracking debut issue. Val is undoubtedly a tough cookie, but there’s a melancholia around her which can be traced back to her early years – she’d barely had time to enjoy her new life with her adoptive family when everything went to hell. It’s evident her parents are gone, and there’s a chance she’s going to lose her brother too.

Wytches, American Vampire, heck, even his Batman work has shown Snyder to be masterful at creating new mythologies and Nocterra demonstrates that knack again with an elegant script that nicely balances tension and character. Snyder’s partnership with Daniel, honed at DC, pays off big time, their talents complementing one another, meshing to produce a series that looks like it will be something special.

Also, Nocterra has an excellent Country music gag and a useful message around dental health. How can you resist?

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