REVIEW: Infinite Dark #1 by Ryan Caddy, Andrea Mutti, K. Michael Russell, & Troy Peteri

Infinite Dark #1 is out 10/10.

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.

Andre Mutti’s first page from Infinite Dark #1…space has rarely felt so claustrophobic.

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

Read our recent interview with Infinite Dark writer Ryan Cady.

For more comic book reviews, check out our review archives.

Zack Quaintance is a tech reporter by day and freelance writer by night/weekend. He Tweets compulsively about storytelling and comics as BatmansBookcase.

Five Questions with Creators: Zack Kaplan

Zack Kaplan

By Zack Quaintance —  Writer Zack Kaplan is on the rise in comics. He’s currently writing three new and exciting series: Eclipse and Port of Earth for Image’s Top Cow imprint, and Lost City Explorers for AfterShock Comics. Both Eclipse and Lost City Explorers have also been optioned for TV, with the latter getting the call pretty quick after its first issue. It’s impressive stuff, and as fans of his work, we wouldn’t be surprised to see more success coming Kaplan’s way soon.

With that in mind, we recently talked to Kaplan for a new feature we’re launching on the site: Five Questions with Creators. It’s exactly what it sounds like. No more explaining, let’s get right to it!

1. I’ve seen in other interviews and your own notes with Eclipse that you’ve had some pretty interesting, what are the most interesting jobs you’ve had (aside from creating comics)?

I mean, people may know I was a poker dealer and a SAT tutor, but I’ll tell you, one of the most interesting jobs I had was a movie trailer surveyor. I did temp work for a data entry company and they would input surveys measuring audience reaction to movie trailers. I punched in thousands of these surveys, and then I asked, hey, who does this? Someone goes to movie theaters and watches how the audience reacts to each trailer and gives it an “Okay” or “Good” or “Great”, and sure enough, there were a ton of people doing this around the country and sending in their data. So I said, “Can I do that?” and they said sure. For about two months, I went and watched movies and before the movie started, I would go to the different theaters and showtimes and gauge audience reaction, which was a completely subjective and random measurement. My own personal evaluation of whether people thought that Mission Impossible movie trailer looked good or great. It was a very random guess, but they reported this data to the studios, and they probably made pivotal decisions based on my keen insights. And I got to tell people I get paid to go watch movies. That was pretty interesting!

2. How do things like having been a poker dealer on the graveyard shirt or having taught screenwriting in the Philippines inform your stories?

I’m a big people watcher. I’ve always enjoyed jobs that allow me to watch and interact with people. Characters in stories are three dimensions, but people are like eight dimensions, and I’ve always found that fascinating. Being a poker dealer, I got to see a lot of interesting people and how they handle the challenges of an involved game like poker, but that was mostly people-watching. Teaching writing is a far more interactive practice, where you have to not just communicate the principles of the craft, but in a workshop setting, identify each student’s needs and address them in a way that helps that student improve. At the end of the day, I think all those experiences help me better understand that people are complex, and I try to capture those complexities and nuances in my writing.

Port of Earth #8 came out this Wednesday.

3. When and how did you first become interested in writing comics?

It began in 2002 when I came back to comics. I had read superheroes growing up, but when I discovered Brian K Vaughn’s Y THE LAST MAN or Greg Rucka’s QUEEN AND COUNTRY or everything Warren Ellis, I realized how diverse and multi-faceted the medium was. I got to see it through adult eyes and gained a whole new appreciation for it. I began reading and collecting a lot of creator-owned comics. I was already pursuing writing in film and TV, but I think that was when the seed was planted: cool writers write cool and original stories in comics. From then, whenever I thought of a story idea, and wondered if it would make a good movie or TV show, I started to wonder about comics. And finally, I took the plunge and decided I wanted to write a comic series too. I spent years trying to land a pitch. When I finally landed ECLIPSE, I still thought I was writing a comic, and it wasn’t until it came out that I realized I was becoming a comic book creator.

4. Your career trajectory has been really cool to watch...what’s the most important piece of advice you’d give to someone who is where you were years ago and would love to eventually be where you are now?

When I finally landed ECLIPSE, I was very nervous. I’m a perfectionist and I wanted it to be great. And that’s simply too much pressure. So, I had to tell myself, Zack, this is not the one. This series, it can be good, you can do your best, but in your life, this one isn’t the one. This is the one that leads to the one. And that allowed me to do two things. Write without such pressure. And realize another important lesson. If I’m just writing good stuff until I get to the one, and none of these are the one, then I’m the one. I’m the product. And as a writer, or an artist, or any creative, I think if you realize that you are building a career of many projects and stories, and some will be good, and some will not, but overall, you are building a long career of creating, that thinking helps. It helps new creators to think small and create a lot of short content to get their names out, it helps inspire creators to work on lots of projects, because you never know which one will be the one. Who knows, maybe ECLIPSE will actually be the one, after all. Maybe not. I’m just busy writing lots of stories now, I can’t think about which one is the one.

5. Lost City Explorers seems to me like a classic teen adventure story for 2018...what are some of your favorite classic teen adventure movies?

Oh, where to begin! GOONIES! INDIANA JONES! Is ET an adventure movie? I think so! How about NEVER ENDING STORY or EXPLORERS? LABYRINTH or BACK TO THE FUTURE? I loved all of that fun, maybe campy stuff from the ‘80s. But I think what inspired THE LOST CITY EXPLORERS was wanting to have my version of those stories but without the 1980s nostalgia. It seemed like whenever people made those stories, they always had a nostalgia to them. I wondered what would a teen adventure look like in modern times. I’ve seen teen dramas. I’ve seen big world teen stories like HARRY POTTER or HUNGER GAMES, but those aren’t our world. So yes, THE LOST CITY EXPLORERS is my teen adventure but in our very own modern times!

+1. Do you remember the worst sunburn you’ve ever had...and do you ever think about it while you’re writing Eclipse?

When I was growing up, I went on a ski trip and got my face so burned, the skin was peeling off. My nose was a mess, and, of course, I came back to high school and they were taking the class pictures. Ugh! But this was years and years ago. The crazy thing is nowadays, it’s not even enough to put on sunscreen once for a day at the beach or a day outside. You have to reapply. The sun is becoming more and more deadly to us. This is happening, and 50 years from now, who knows how bad it will be. That’s what I love about the concept behind ECLIPSE. The sun is supposed to be this positive, happy, plant-growing force in our lives, but everyone secretly harbors a hatred to the sun and the one time it totally burned them. Screw you sun, we never forget!

Click here for a review of Eclipse #9 and here for a review of Lost City Explorers #1.

Zack Quaintance is a journalist who also writes fiction and makes comics. Find him on Twitter at @zackquaintance. He lives in Sacramento, California.