By Zack Quaintance — A very tardy set of Top Comics to Buy for April 10, 2019 this week, but what can I say? There were a lot of great books, and I wanted to make sure I’d read as many of them as possible before settling on my recommendations. It’s called due dilligence, and I’ll be damned if I don’t...um, do it. Yeah.Read More
By Zack Quaintance — Infinite Dark #1 is a space survival story, albeit one that functions differently than most stories that fit that description. Space survivalism often sees a protagonist or group of protagonists fighting desperately to return to Earth (or whatever other habitable planet) as oxygen or power or food depletes. What sets Infinite Dark #1 apart is that there is no return waiting for the humans in this comic. There’s nowhere to go at all.
Ryan Cady and Andrea Mutti’s Infinite Dark is set after the heat death of the universe, on a single space arc that has escaped annihilation. There is no pressing concern to be outrun, with the characters here chased only by the knowledge that the vast majority of life has been snuffed out around them. In this story, it’s survivor’s guilt, nihilism, malaise, bleak routine, and lack of a vibrant future that people must confront. It’s powerful stuff, a complex and nuanced dive into human psychology, one that feels forlorn and relatable in ways most dystopian sci-fi stories don’t.
Cady builds Infinite Dark atop painfully universal feelings: these characters are safe, at least in terms of having basic needs met, yet that alone is not enough to make them content. The titular infinite dark comes to serve as an effective metaphor for depression so severe, so palpable as to be almost smothering. The plot grows from an inciting incident that threatens to make life even worse. It’s a compelling murder mystery with a great horror tinge, but mood is really what’s for sale here.
Cady’s narration really bolsters the mood throughout, with a number of excellent lines, including That’s what the Orpheus feels like—humanity’s perfect tomb, outwitting the end of all things, the ultimate habitat...and Mutti’s artwork shines especially well in exterior shots of the ship, making it as small as it must feel to those inside. Space has rarely seemed so claustrophobic. This book also builds toward an intriguing crescendo of rapidfire plot points that culminate in a fantastic cliffhanger (as debut comics must). So yes, while it certainly looks like no fun to be aboard the Orpheus, as a reader I’m signing up for the long haul.
Infinite Dark #1 is also an interesting companion to another major creator-owned book launched this week, Daniel Warren Johnson’s Murder Falcon. At their cores, both books are about unthinkable loss. Whereas Murder Falcon takes a fantastical approach to grieving, Infinite Dark’s perspective is rooted in reality, which is a credit to how real the characters are, given Murder Falcon is set in our world and this one takes place in limitless space.
Overall: Infinite Dark tells an intriguing story steeped in depression with a deep and nuanced understanding of human psychology, plus forlorn visuals to match. This complex comic makes readers feel as if they too have boarded a space arc following the heat death of the universe. A must-read for fans of meaningful science-fiction, with extra points for so adeptly incorporating horror and mystery tinges. 9.0/10
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Zack Quaintance is a tech reporter by day and freelance writer by night/weekend. He Tweets compulsively about storytelling and comics as BatmansBookcase.
By Zack Quaintance — Ryan Cady will make his Marvel debut this coming Wednesday, writing a backup story drawn by Hayden Sherman for the Old Man Logan Annual. The month after that, he’s launching one of the darker creator-owned books to be solicited all year. How dark? Infinitely so (the book’s title is Infinite Dark).
I could continue prattling about his credentials and how he’s basically the definition of an exciting creator to watch, but instead I’ll step aside now as Ryan answers our latest set of five questions with creators (plus one extra one about fast food)...
1. So, I had a chance to read the preview of Infinite Dark from SDCC. Really great stuff! Where did the idea for this story come from and what was your process like for taking it from idea to a fully-realized comic?
Thanks man! I’ve had the idea for quite awhile. It came out of some pretty rough, bleak times in my life, and I sort of hung onto this idea of “survival as a virtue.” Wanting to explore that, I turned toward this mishmash of horror ideas I’d had about the Heath Death of the Universe, listened to some really appropriate dark/emo music, and synthesized it all into a plot. It was just about bringing all those disparate kernels together under that theme, and getting it to be something Andrea wanted to create together.
2. The concept of the book and the preview left me feeling lonely and almost outside of myself…what sort of headspace did you have to get in while writing this story and developing these characters?
Like I said before, I was in a hard place. 2017 was the worst year of my life, personal-life wise. I moved across the country for a relationship that started crumbling, I lost of lot of support structures, some friendships collapsed, money was tight – I felt kind of lost out there. But coming out of that – surviving at any cost and finding a home even if it’s not who you were before…that’s sort of where I was when it finally became time to script. And even if the story starts off as bleak as can be, in pure empty oblivion, I promise there is hope for these characters. Even if they don’t have much yet, themselves.
3. Andrea Mutti’s art is so good, such an interesting hard sci-fi aesthetic. What is the collaboration process between the two of you like?
Andrea Mutti is one of the most enthusiastic people in comics. He’s always cheery, always excited, always pushing me. I have a lot of close character thoughts, but he’s always so good about making sure I remember the dynamism of comics, the big images and dramatic action that can precede or even help further convey those moments. Plus, he uses a lot of friendly emojis in his emails that just always make my day.
4. What can you tell us about the story you’re writing for next month’s Old Man Logan Annual, from what I understand it’s an excerpt from Frank Castle’s War Journal…
Oh man, I could not be more ecstatic about my Marvel debut, man. This story is…Well, it’s an examination of Frank Castle – one of the most nihilistic dudes in the Marvel Universe – traversing the Wastelands of the Old Man Logan timeline – easily the most nihilistic time period of the Marvel Universe. And while that sounds bleak and brutal and awful (and the story is, at times), where we’re taking Frank still gives him a leg to stand on. A crusade. He’s going to encounter some people who want to recreate the mistakes of the past, and he’s having none of it.
5. So, when you haven’t been mentally inhabiting post-heat death survivalist scenarios or alternate future stories about whatever-it-takes vigilantism…what comics, books, TV, movies, music, etc. have you been consuming lately?
Ha! Well, I’m a huge D&D fan, so I play in a couple campaigns and I’m a huge fan of the Adventure Zone podcast. I like podcasts and audiobooks cause I drive a lot and listen to ‘em when I do chores, etc. So I’m big on TAZ and the Magnus Archives, and I’m doing my best to work through a lot of the “Top Horror Novels of All Time,” and try to get back to my roots, as it were. Comics-wise, I’ve actually been trying to go back and read more formative, classic stuff – I just finished Transmetropolitan, some old X-Men runs, a few Ennis stories…Like I said, trying to shore up my roots.
+1. As a noted fast food connoisseur, what if any fast food products are most likely to survive the heat death of the universe and why?
Taco Bell re-releases the Beefy Crunch Burrito once every couple years, and everyone loves it, but they never keep it around for long, even though demand is crazy high and it’s easy to make with ingredients they mostly keep on hand anyway. I imagine that somewhere on board the Orpheus there’s some kind of future Taco Bell, and even though all food is available with matter processors, even though there’s no actual time or seasons or anything, they STILL only release the fucking thing once a year, just to torture these poor people.
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Zack Quaintance is a journalist who also writes fiction and makes comics. Find him on Twitter at @zackquaintance. He lives in Sacramento, California.