The second volume of Dark Matter by Chris Sides is due for release at MCM Birmingham in just a few weeks time but I was lucky enough to get an early look at the next Close 2 Immortality release.
Chris already set the bar high with the first Volume and while the short, punchy stories were a slick mix of styles and themes, I was keen to see how he would follow it up. He’s got some familiar names joining him on art and while there are slightly fewer stories on offer there’s a bit more meat to the ones he has released in this second volume.
The Rollover with art by Paul Moore & Charlie Hogg
Being robbed of a massive lottery windfall is the cruellest thing to imagine but that doesn’t mean revenge can’t travel down the timeline and that’s exactly what we get here. Chris explains very little as he goes but just allows things to develop and it’s this approach that makes this first story a page turner. There’s intrigue from the beginning and while there’s no Sam Beckett or Al to guide us through this the pursuit of a winning ticket beyond the generations is a strong opener. Paul & Charlie’s artwork is slick too and the art/colouring gives this a depth to what could have been a throwaway tale……but it ends up being far from that.
Cerulean Sky with art by Chris Travell
We start at the end on this one as two cops get radioed about a bank robbers getaway car coming in their direction as the rookie learns the ropes from the seasoned professional. What comes their way is another surprise as Chris flips another story up in the air with a slick twist that goes on to give us another twist. Glorious work from Travell as he returns to this second volume and thank fuck he did because the page pretty much crackles with the desert heat that seems to add an extra layer of tension as things unfold.
Stay With Me with art by Randy Haldeman & Ken Reynolds
This futuristic tale centres on The Pothos mining platform orbiting Titan that’s gone compeltely silent and we’re dropped right into the middle fo things as a ship arrives to find out what the hell has been going on. Lack of response from the team and a pretty much derelict ship greet’s them but exploring their new surrondings they start to get a feel for something more grim going on……and it all turns out to be a tale of AI obsession gone too far and to hell with the consequences/casualties. Drip feeding us details is a smart move from Chris on this one as it builds tension well and the sneak peak at what’s behind closed doors gives the reader more info than the central characters have leaving us with the urge to let them know somehow.
Unspoken with art by Matt Harrower, Aljosa Tomic & Ken Reynolds
It’s another sci-fi tale but this time the AI is the hero of the piece it’s just that know one wants the masses to know that this is the case. A grim look at a post-apocalyptic world that’s seen the members of a Cult act out what seems like the Endgame with their latest act of terrorism but there are ALWAYS going to be survivors and although it’s a bleak almost bittersweet twist that unravels in this one it ends up feeling like the most poignant of the tales Chris has on offer. A bit more cartoony on the artwork side but it actually works far better than I expected at first from Matt, Aljosa & Ken.
Fine Dining with art by Jim Lavery, Aljosa Tomic & Ken Reynolds
It’s comics meet Hells Kitchen as the cullinery world of cooking shows and a fairly innocent tussle between the two egos of top chef and top critic leads to a very specific menu being offered up for praise or punishment. It all takes a much more sinister turn though as the masses consume the dishes and are hungry for what’s next and the critic seems to be left as the only one out of the loop on what’s actually been going on but she’s soon far more involved than she was hoping. Brilliantly OTT with just as much swagger as that head chef.
The Last Batch with art by Dan Cornwell & Ken Reynolds
A unique spin on your typical zombie outbreak story and it’s the curse of the drink as the source for the outbreak that’s spreading across the world. Accidents will happen, even in a distillery and the last good batch needs to finished off and the craft in this one is that it’s all being retold like a tale you hear at the bar with some random drunk that you never really know whether to take seriously or not……but for this occasion….you better.
This second volume of Dark Matter really shows off some of Chris Sides best work and he’s got a smart approach of dropping us in the middle of all the worst possible situations and gradually explaining what’s going on. The stories he has here feel much more varied than in that first volume but that just helps show the breadth of talent that’s buzzing around his head. He’s got a great knack for pairing up with some great artists too and while they all vary in style they all back the strong stories up with some great artwork. The addition of colour for this second volume is what really helps elevate it even higher and act like the cherry on the cake for an anthology that feels much more like you’re working through a weekly pull-list. Glorious to read, easy to get lost in and stunning to look at……that’s a win on every level.