Nocterra #1 from Tony S. Daniel and Scott Snyder is a tightly-paced story set in a complicated and largely creative world, marking a strong debut for Snyder's Tech Jackett imprint and giving Daniel a high profile success outside of the confines of the Big Two. The series centers on a truck driver who grew up partially blind, and now drives big rigs loaded with refugees through a pitch-black landscape where the darkness, which descended on the world unexplained about a generation prior, transforms anyone trapped in it into a monster. The series could easily feel like another The Walking Dead, given the nature of a world consumed by murderous creatures, but it plays a little more like what Scooby-Doo Apocalypse might have transformed into after a decade or two.
It's a creative world, less bleak than one might expect, and the idea of people finding a way to resume some semblance of their routine and carry on resonated particularly well a year into the COVID-19 pandemic. But as immersive as the mythology created by Snyder is, it's the art that makes it feel real. Colorist Tomeu Morey acquits himself particularly well, balancing the negative space of a comic that centers on the dark with the vibrant colors inherent in a world where keeping the lights on is a key aspect of survival.
Daniel also impresses; the issue is full of diverse characters, each of whom has a specific visual hook. The issue takes what Daniel is best known for—a polished look, with smooth contours and edges—and turns that corporate-friendly feel into something that is really unusual and refreshing for Snyder's horror work. The effect—along with some wild costume designs and fun dialogue—is to evoke the feeling of the world of Dark Nights: Metal, but transposed into a little indie horror comic.
There are minor things that don't work; as with many stories with speculative or post-apocalyptic worlds, a lot of the terminology sounds strange at first, which can jar you out of the reading experience. Bear in mind, though, that as the series progresses that could end up being like "walkers" in The Walking Dead and fit the world perfectly. Similarly, the clean, Big Two-inspired look of Daniel's art gives the comic a lot of substance but also makes it feel somewhat sanitized, and his page layouts can be simple and sometimes static, relative to the dynamic and creative work that artists like Jock and Raphael Albuquerque have brought to some of Snyder's other recent work.
Another question—and one that doesn't impact this issue but does feel like a question raised by it—is how gracefully the series will age. It's a good-looking book from some top-tier talent, for sure, but at face value a lot of its appeal is in the world-building. Once you get past the first arc and that world is more or less established, Snyder and Daniel may have to do some heavy lifting to keep audiences invested. If the book possesses a long-term plan—as most of Snyder's best work does—they should be in good shape there.
That's not a bad problem to have, either; with the pedigrees these creators have and the benefits of the doubt it will buy them, if your biggest concern is living up to a strong first issue, you should be feeling pretty good.
Rating: 4.5 out of 5
Published by Image Comics
On March 3, 2021
Written by Scott Snyder
Art by Tony Daniel
Colors by Tomeu Morey
Letters by Andworld Design
Cover by Tony Daniel and Tomeu Morey