Nocterra was a very interesting series when it debuted. In a world plunged in darkness it followed Val, a ferryman who hauls cargo through the dark world while dodging the horrors that awaits. When Val is hired to drive two individuals, she finds herself being pursued by Blacktop Bill, a mysterious villain we’re told little about. Nocterra: Blacktop Bill Special pulls back the curtain, promising the origin of this shroud of a character and it sort of delivers. But, is this something we really need?
With a story by Scott Snyder and Tony S. Daniel, we’re told the origin of Blacktop Bill and it’s honestly a bit yawn inducing. Basically, Bill likes to kill. He’s a hitman’s hitman. He’s a killer’s killer. Does that really add anything to the character? We know Bill is a killer. We know Bill can drive. He’s a force of nature and after reading this “origin” the character was better off remaining a mystery.
Like Boba Fett and so many more Blacktop Bill wasn’t just cool based on his actions but also his look and most importantly the mystery. The readers didn’t need to know his origin the appreciate the threat that Bill is in the first volume of the series. He presented himself as such. So, saying he’s a really good killer doesn’t add a whole lot to the situation. There’s no tragedy here. There’s no major event that turns him into what he is.
The biggest question, the “armor” he wears now isn’t really explained at all, that’s being saved for another story. So, in the end we’re told the killer is a killer and enjoys is and he should be feared. It’s everything we already know. It doesn’t add anything really to his story beyond he’s good at his job.
Denys Cowan‘s art is the highlight of the comic. He keeps Bill in the shadow never really showing us much of the man. The panels with Bill have the reader straining and attempting to get a peak of what he looks like but always coming up empty. Cowan is joined by Kent Williams on ink, Chris Sotomayor on color, and Andworld Design on lettering. There’s something interesting in seeing the world of Nocterra without the darkness and it all feels rather mundane and average, which is sort of the point. The visuals drag the reader in to show us how normal Bill is… beyond the killing. If that was played up a bit more there might have been something a bit disturbing and more intriguing about the issue. But, it looks nice, so there’s that.
Nocterra: Blacktop Bill Special takes some of the mystery of the character away and adds little in its place. It’s an issue we don’t really need and feels like material you’d find and as a backup story throughout a few issues. This is one for the hardcore Nocterra fans but be prepared to have the real questions not answered.
Story: Scott Snyder, Tony S. Daniel Art: Denys Cowan
Ink: Kent Williams Color: Chris Sotomayor Letterer: Andworld Design
Story: 7.0 Art: 8.1 Overall: 7.0 Recommendation: Read
Image Comics provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review
Purchase: comiXology – Kindle – Zeus Comics – TFAW