Scott Snyder, Tony S Daniel, Denys Cowan and Kent Williams’ Nocterra: Blacktop Bill Special is a fascinating glimpse into the villain’s dark past.
Scott Snyder and Tony S. Daniel’s First Arc Nocterra introduced readers to an enthralling version of the apocalypse and an endearing cast of characters. The Image Comics series is already being adapted into a Netflix show, directed by James Wan, and the comic is set to return in February with the release of Nocterra #seven. But before the new story arc begins, Snyder and Daniel teamed up with artists Denys Cowan and Kent Williams to explore the series’ scariest villain in Nocterra: Blacktop Bill Special – an exciting new issue.
Nocterra: Blacktop Bill Special is an extension of a conversation between Mother Hubbard and Bellweather that began in Nocterra # 4. Mother Hubbard tells Bellweather the story of Blacktop Bill before “the great Prime Minister.” But as frightening as his career is, Hubbard maintains that the murders he has committed for his entertainment are even more gruesome.
Scott Snyder’s writing is still going strong in Nocterra: Blacktop Bill Special. Her decision to build the issue around a conversation that took place earlier in the series helps keep the overall narrative of the story in context and allows this prequel issue to move quickly through time without feeling hurry. The anecdotal nature of the storytelling also helps maintain a certain degree of mystery about Blacktop Bill. This issue gives readers a sense of history, but it’s still all hearsay, so there’s always something bigger than life and unnerving about the villain. As well-written as this prequel is, Snyder doesn’t add much to the world of Nocterra. Rather than delving into a specific training moment of Blacktop Bill’s youth, he provides a summary of Bill’s passion for murder, which feels like a missed opportunity to explore the early days of this grim post-apocalyptic world. .
Denys Cowan’s frenzied pencils and Kent Williams’ bold inks help capture Blacktop Bill’s gruesome personality. Their art seems looser and more energetic than Daniel’s work in the first arc of Nocterra, but just as communicative. The rough nature of Cowan’s line art reflects the danger simmering just below the surface whenever Blacktop Bill is involved. Even Bill’s van appears to be shaking in anticipation of a frightening explosion of violence. Colourist Chris Sotomayor’s dark blues and purples help reinforce the haunting tone of Snyder’s handwriting and add clarity to Cowan and Williams’ art.
Nocterra: Blacktop Bill Special is unlikely to radically change the understanding or appreciation of Nocterra series. However, it’s an engaging and baffling take on one of the show’s most interesting characters. Snyder’s writing sets a creepy yet human tone that makes the series as endearing as it is. Cowan and Williams do an amazing job incorporating their own styles into Daniel’s established visual language. This special is a great way for readers to navigate their way to Nocterra before a new arc begins.
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