‘Infinite Dark: Volume 1’ - Advance Trade Paperback Review

After the heat death of the universe, the last of humanity has gathered on the Orpheus station, awaiting the next big bang. For two years, they stare helplessly into the void, and then all of a sudden, something stares back. Infinite Dark: Vol. 1 collects the first four issues of writer Ryan Cady and artist Andrea Mutti's thoughtful science fiction horror.

The Orpheus was built with a pseudo-reality drive intended to sustain 15,000 survivors fleeing the entropy of all things. But the end came before they could arrive, and now the 2,000 people that built the station are the sole survivors of the human race. Security Director Deva Harrell is wracked with survivor's guilt. It's hard for her to see the Orpheus as anything but a tomb.

Harrell is called to investigate the first violent crime on the station, a murder committed by Chief Technolinguist Alvin Scheidt. Harrell and her team find Scheidt in the dark sector of the Orpheus, a habitat built for survivors that went "dark" after no additional survivors arrived. Scheidt babbles about seeing something in the void outside the station. He runs to an airlock and traps himself and Harrell inside. The airlock opens and Scheidt is sucked out into oblivion. As Harrell hangs on for her life, she sees a something watching her from beyond the airlock door.

Cady makes no secret of his intentions with Infinite Dark. It's a story about dealing with depression, wrapped in a package of futuristic tech and terror. At the beginning of issue one, Harrell is literally and emotionally adrift in the darkness. She questions the mission of the Orpheus, afraid that extinction is inevitable no matter what they do. She feels scared, guilty, and unsure about how (or even why) to move forward. In this way, I found her to be a really relatable character, and I'm sure other readers will, too. And without giving too much away, Cady makes the monster in the story (that represents Harrell's fears and anxieties) all the more dangerous, because it comes from a place that seems not only rational, but inescapable. As the monster closes in on Harrell, she faces another very relatable scenario: fight it or succumb to it.

Cady skillfully populates his station with realistic characters, specifically Harrell and her colleagues on the board of directors. They were the station's project managers that became de facto leaders when the universe went dark. Their relationships are fascinating, but some could have been more clearly defined. Their conversations are heavy with dialogue, but I still found myself wanting more substantial interactions.

Harrell and the other directors butt heads throughout the story, all of them struggling to individually cope with the overwhelmingly bleak situation - which, in itself, contains another compelling message about mental health: You're not always as alone as you think. Even when not fighting for survival at the end of the universe, people around you are likely dealing with fears and anxieties of their own.

The story oscillates between noir mystery, technological thriller, and classic monster-in-the-house horror. Mutti and colorist K. Michael Russell keep pace by creating numerous visually interesting environments. Darkness invades every panel. The corridors of the Orpheus are cold and confining which pairs perfectly with Harrell's growing despondency and isolation. A few action sequences were hard to follow, and I found myself getting lost between the panels, but there were also genuinely creepy scenes as Harrell is haunted by visions of the encroaching darkness and the monster she saw outside of the airlock.

The first Infinite Dark storyline is wrapped up in the four issues of this trade paperback, but the characters and situations have yet to be fully explored, leaving a lot of potential for additional stories and new perspectives on themes like guilt and depression. The collected volume also includes variant covers, concept art gallery, interviews with the creators, and an illuminating afterward by Cady elaborating on the themes of mental health and the horror genre.


Creative Team: Ryan Cady (writer), Andrea Mutti (artist), K Michael Russell (colors), Troy Peteri (letters)
Publisher: Image Comics / Top Cow Productions
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