Indie Comic Review: Dark Matter vol. 1

Dark Matter may be one of those books that slipped under your radar when it was released as single issues. There was not much hype from Dark Horse about the title despite the fact that it was written by Joseph Mallozzi and Paul Mullie who worked on Stargate SG-1. That was something, right? Either way, the four issues of Dark Matter have been collected and are available today. But should you care?

You bet you should!

The six-person crew of a derelict spaceship awakens from stasis in the farthest reaches of space. Their memories wiped clean, they have no recollection of who they are or how they go on board. The only clue to their identities is a cargo bay full of weaponry and a destination—a remote mining colony that is about to become a war zone! With no idea whose side they are on, they face a deadly decision. Will these amnesiacs turn their backs on history, or will their pasts catch up with them?

What struck me when reading Dark Matter was how much it reminded me of Firefly/Serenity. You get a sense of that from the solicitation text. I mean, how many times were the phrases “cargo bay”, “mining colony”, “war zone”, and “deadly decision” used in Firefly? I draw the comparison favorably because, like in Firefly, Dark Matter is a different kind of sci-fi adventure. It shifts the attention from all the fancy gizmos and technology in favor telling an interesting story.

The plot of Dark Matter is decidedly the strongest piece of the book. The basic premise is solid and it acts as a catalyst for everything that the characters do. The mystery of the characters’ identities is less important than what happened to them and why they cannot remember anything. Mallozzi and Mullie can easily keep that plot point going for quite a while without it getting old. Even when their identities are revealed (in a pretty predictable “twist”) the underlying mystery continues to drive the story forward.

While the plot is strong, the scripting is less so. Characters speak in predictable ways, quickly adopting speech patterns and “personalities” straight out of 80′s action flicks. While it was entertaining to have Jayne speak like that on board Serenity, and entire crew of Jaynes would quickly wear thin. I was pretty sick of a couple of the characters pretty rapidly, but the desire to see where the plot went kept me engaged in the story. The plot outweighs the script, but just barely.

The art by Garry Brown is quite rough. There are no smooth, rounded lines. Everything is jagged edges and roughed in shapes. Brown’s art lends a personality and atmosphere to the book, making the spaceship seem that much more dangerous a place. My only complaint is that, from time to time, it was difficult to tell one character from another because of the lack of definition and distinction. But, given how they each had their own distinct speech patterns, it was not too confusing for long.

Coming to the end of the first volume of Dark Matter was much like coming to the end of an episode of Firefly. One mystery was solved (their identities) but the main mystery (who sabotaged the ship) remained. In addition, new mysteries were revealed, giving the reader even more reason to come back for the next installment. Hopefully we will not have to wait too long for the second volume of Dark Matter.

Dark Matter Volume 1: Rebirth is available today.

Click here for a four page preview of Dark Matter.

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