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.