“AFTER DARK” (Comic Review)

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Originally published at Fangoria.com on October 23, 2010

Radical Comics’ AFTER DARK takes readers to a postapocalyptic future where hideous creatures live in the shadows. Earth lies in a state of neverending darkness, and civilization is just about ready to lose hope.

In this grim, bleak setting, sunlight does not exist anymore. The last remaining humans live in a world without spring, as the population has become decimated due to a nuclear holocaust. With the sun blocked by mushroom clouds, Solar City has become the only place in the world with a source of electricity. The police force must attempt to calm down the riots, looting and protests even as electrical energy is becoming scarce.

Lt. Brood has been ordered by high-ranking officials to search for a woman named Angel, who may hold the key to saving their world and is hiding in the nuclear wastelands. The amoral lieutenant brings along a group of outlaws to find her on what proves to be a suicide mission, as they travel into the darkest regions of their ruined planet. Bloodthirsty mutants lie in the path between them and their so-called savior.

Among this ragtag team of fugitives are a samurai, a hitman and a pilot. Omar, a Bedouin drifter, is the most important member of the group, as his special eyesight will help navigate the ship through the darkest parts of Europe. As they ride in their cramped and claustrophobic craft, none of them can get along, given their opposing personalities. And as they head toward their destination, radiation poisoning is slowly sinking into their bloodstreams.

Earlier this year, director Antoine Fuqua gave actor Wesley Snipes a pivotal role in his film BROOKLYN’S FINEST. Now, they have teamed up again to create the concept for this comics series, which feels ready-made to be adapted into the movie screen. Peter Milligan took on the scripting duties of this three-issue limited series, and his writing is engaging when he focuses on the postapocalyptic setting. You want to know more about how scientists screwed up and created this environment.

The major flaw in the first issue is that the pages are jam-packed with so many characters. Readers might have difficulty distinguishing each member of the group, because very little insight is given into each character’s backstory. Who exactly are you supposed to root for, if you don’t really care about them? What does create excitement is the mystery that lies in the darkness. As the team travel to the darkest parts of Europe, they enter into a fierce battle with deformed creatures called “blind bugs.” The panels by artist Jeff Nentrup are creepy and suspenseful, as the characters blindly shoot everywhere in the dark.

AFTER DARK has a good story, but tries too hard to introduce too many characters in the early going. Readers may not get much character development, but they do get a window to an incredibly bleak and nasty world.