Review: Outer Darkness/Chew #1
There’s something special about crossovers between non-superheroes comics. Usually, a Marvel or DC crossover comes with expectations of event-like conflicts and big action set-pieces. Creator-owned crossovers, on the other hand, tend to live and die by the strength of their characters and the culture they carry from their own comics. This is definitely the case with Outer Darkness/Chew #1, from John Layman, Afu Chan, and Rob Guillory, a coming together of sci-fi, horror, and comedy of epic proportions from two books that rival each other in terms of the sheer storytelling madness they produce.
The comic starts with the crew of the Charon (from Outer Darkness) engaging with a Cibulaxian alien ambassador that only engages in conversation over food. No external communicator can help in the situation and the chef responsible for comms meets a gleefully violent and premature end early on. The captain of the Charon, Captain Rigg, is then forced to resort to plan B: traveling in time to bring Tony Chu in, a Cibopath that can dive into the memories of the things he eats (from Chew).
Outer Darkness/Chew #1 requires prior knowledge of both series to fully appreciate. Writer John Layman, who wrote both series, basically says as much in his letter to the fans at the end of the issue, when he talks about how the book approaches the Chew parts of the book as a kind of coda to the original series (which ran for 60 issues from 2009-2016).
From the Outer Darkness side of the equation, an understanding of the concept is pretty much all you need, which is basically made up of bits from The Exorcist, Star Trek, and Event Horizon. Honestly, I would recommend reading both series as they are very good on their own and are well worth the price of admission. Maybe then come back to the crossover.
The story succeeds in making both the Chewverse and the Outer Darknessverse converge as if they were naturally meant to since their inception. It even makes it a point to recognize changes in how the characters look within the story once they crossover.
Rob Guillory, co-creator of Chew, illustrates his part of the story in the original style of the book with Afu Chan, co-creator of Outer Darkness, doing the same. When Tony Chu is brought aboard the Charon, Afu Chan takes over and the characters acknowledge the change in their looks. They are baffled by it, even.
It’s a bit of meta that builds up the crossover quite well and makes each character recognize the distance between their realities. Chew characters transition well under Chan’s pencils and they still seem like they are from another place, which adds to the clash of stories between the two universes.
Layman’s script does a good job of balancing both worlds, especially in terms of tone. Outer Darkness is a more serious tale than Chew and yet they each keep their identities intact throughout the issue. One’s humor doesn’t drown out the other’s horror. This is something that rarely manages to carry over in this type of story, but Layman pulls it off. Let’s see if it manages to sustain itself over the entire arc.
There’s a lot to like about Outer Darkness/Chew #1, especially for fans of the two series. In fact, I’d say that’s precisely the audience it’s seeking. New readers will probably struggle a bit to make everything click, but there’re still enough things going on in the story that anyone could latch onto and follow. There’s just a lot of fun to be had here, and the promise of more Cibopaths in space is always a good thing.
Script: John Layman Art: Rob Guillory and Afu Chan
Story: 9 Art: 10 Overall: Buy and then read all of Chew
Image Comics provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review