REVIEW: Scott Snyder’s Nocterra #1 is Impressive Neon Horror

Nocterra #1 Review

Table of Contents

Nocterra #1 Review

Nocterra #1 starts the story Val, a trucker, in a world where the sky turned black thirteen years ago. It is written by Scott Snyder, with art by Tony S. Daniel, colors by Tomeu Morey and letters by Andworld Design.

Nocterra review
Nocterra #1 Cover

Nocterra #1 Story

I’m the type of person who loves stories that drop us in a vast and fantastical world alongside a protagonist that we can explore the universe alongside. For Star Wars it’s Luke, Anakin, and Rey. For Nocterra it’s Val or as she’s also known Sundog. And yes, this book deserves the comparison to Star Wars. A through line of much of Snyder’s work is the importance of family and Nocterra follows that idea. The story begins with a flashback to when it all began, the day the sky went dark.

Snyder refers to this event as the Big PM. It provides some lightheartedness to an otherwise dark book and while some may take issue with the humor of the name, I think it says something about humanity. The idea that we could take one of the worst events ever and make it a bit better shows some hope in this world.

We learn a lot about Val in this first flashback, she doesn’t explain how the darkness happened but rather something about herself. Val had cataracts that caused her to be legally blind. But she wasn’t completely blind, she could briefly look at something before dark spots appeared to cover it. She later reveals that she had corrective surgery to fix her vision.

We don’t know what happens next as the flashback ends with Val and her family driving through the dark. Snyder then jumps 13 years into the future where we meet Val who now is a truckdriver. Instead of carrying food or packages she carries people from settlement to settlement. Snyder soon explains how we got here. The darkness has a side-effect to it that causes anything living to mutate if it stays without light for too long.

Light has become a weapon; everyone in the back of the truck looks like they belong at an EDM party with neon light suits. Val’s truck encounters a particularly nasty Shade, the name of mutated beasts, which leads to a beautifully rendered battle. The monster rips into the truck and devours a passenger before Val tricks it to tackle her out the back. Luckily, they are close enough to the city that giant spotlights light up the area and push the Shades back into the dark.

Val then enters the city, and the family drama ensues. Val’s brother Emory, who’s been in her earpiece the whole time, is at risk of becoming a Shade. Val forces him to try dialysis to stop the effects, but she knows it’s coming to a head. The city security is coming to check on him and Val is no longer allowed to run any routes to get the electricity she desperately needs for Emory’s procedures.

She decides to take a risky off the books route with a family she had brought to the city. They claim they know of a sanctuary built into the mountains but it’s in the heart of Shade nests. Bringing Emory with her she sets out. But someone is pursing them.

A man wearing a body suit that is absolute black shows up at the town looking for the family Val had just taken with her. He then drops a bombshell in a room full of bounty hunters. The man Val is transporting caused the Big PM. Val now has a city hunting her.

Nocterra #1 Art

From page one Daniel and Morey carry the story to another level. When we enter the dark world of Nocterra it is a sight to see. Daniel, in horrific detail, shows how dangerous and scary this world is. The Shades may have been normal animals at one point but now they are something out of a nightmare. There is a panel where Val stares into the face of a Shade that evokes a nostalgic sense of terror. We all had nightmares as kids about monsters that were hiding underneath the bed and Daniel manages to capture that. The face of inhuman terror strikes the heart.

Morey’s colors add another layer to Daniel’s work. In a world of shadows light and color are a spectacle to behold. With a striking range of neon and muted colors Morey stretches their skills in impressive fashion. A dark world could have been very bland, but Morey’s colors make it feel so lived in that we could fall into it ourselves.

Nocterra #1 Conclusion

Nocterra is the first book out of Best Jackett Press, Snyder’s new comic company, and it sets the bar high. With fantastic art and a sci-fi story that will keep you up at night, this is a story you can’t miss. My biggest question about this series is how deep into horror is Snyder going? This story is a family tragedy in the same vein as A Quiet Place where a family struggles against monsters they can’t beat. Will Snyder take us into even darker places with the beasts we have yet to see as well as the inevitable climax of Emory’s slow change into a shade?

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