Nocterra is a series that’s been hugely successful because it blends so many things well. From the art by Tony S. Daniel to the mystery of how the world went dark to the personal ties characters have to the only family they have left, there’s plenty here to pique your interest. This series is all about a race against time, but there are multiple races at work — from the truck battery dying and leaving our characters for dead to Val’s brother fully turning into a shade.
That heightened sense of urgency drives the story forward. In Nocterra #4, out this week, we learn a bit more about what Val and her brother did after locking their parents in the basement, and that continues to connect to the present as her brother turns closer to, well, the dark side. The larger mystery of what happened to blot out the sun, and what the deal is with the book Bailey has, remain the most curious. This issue does a good job blending the fast pace of danger dropping into the story while revealing new details at opportune times.
You can tell the creators of Nocterra are having a blast and drawing from their previous work. Snyder utilizes the mileage marker like he did in All-Star Batman, which adds anticipation and urgency. Daniel draws some cool-looking monsters and has good pacing to draw your eye as he pushes in on characters. Color artist Tomeu Morey is experimental at glowing light, like the lights on Val’s front lawn or the blue glow of Blacktop Bill’s car.
The strongest element of this issue is how Snyder drops you into this world and makes it easy to imagine how frightening it’d be. The opening details how people are ordered to stay inside and the army will come to check on you. Then they never do. He also sets up the grave truth that Val and her brother will need to kill their parents and only reveals what likely happened later further making the story beat more impactful and contemplative.
The issue isn’t without some minor gripes. The story is certainly moving the plot along at a slow pace though it juggles so much it doesn’t read like we’re getting less. There’s some handy Deus Ex Machina that might have used some explanation as far as how unlikely a save is later in the issue (though that might have an explanation next issue). And also super minor, but Daniel’s sometimes puts a character in a pose that’s stiff and awkward.
Nocterra continues to blend all the horror, action, and urgency you’d want in a thriller. There’s always enough entertainment and it’s a sure thing Nocterra will make you jump or feel real fear in every issue.
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