Dark Nebula 11 – It’s All About Chaos… in Theory

Dark Nebula #11 reviewed by Steve Saul December 11, 2022
The Chaos Theory

When last we… nebulised (?)...

Not a recap issue. Not a one-off story. Readers new and old have been brought up to speed with the Dark Nebula, so now it’s time to dive back into the mythos. At the very end of Dark Nebula #10, we were tantalised by the sudden appearance of Cerellus, the alien at the very heart of Dark Nebula’s origin. The teaser page spoke of Chaos, making it very clear to those who knew this book way back when what they could look forward to.

Diving Straight In

Dark Nebula #11 opens right where the previous issue finished, with Mark Medula pulling himself together after the sudden arrival of Cerellus in his mind. Cerellus has come with a warning: Chaos is back!

So who – or what – is Chaos?

In Dark Nebula #3 and #4, Mark and his sometime mind-sharer, Cerellus, were first confronted by Chaos. Declaring himself the anathema to the power of the Dark Nebula, Chaos split the two identities and sent them each to a far-flung era. There, both Mark and Cerellus encountered members of Mark’s family tree; one deep in the past; one in the far future. Each learnt a fearful truth about his own family line before being whisked away to a Ditkoesque realm by Chaos for a final showdown. After a fierce but even battle, the two realised they had been set up by Chaos. Re-merging their psyches, they turned on Chaos, defeated him and banished him from reality… forever?

Of course not.

Our story begins with Mark learning not only that Chaos is back, but that the previous temporal escapades were not, in fact, entirely his doing. This little plot twist is enough to send Mark and Cerellus once more to the same distant epochs – but with one important variation I will leave the reader to discover. Again, family members are met and dealt with; more details of the family history are learned; and we finish with not one but two cliffhanger endings – as we did in Dark Nebula #3.

Words and Pictures

Those familiar with Dark Nebula (and the writing of Tad Pietrzykowski) from previous incarnations, will no doubt expect a certain Aussie Larrikin flavour to the writing of this book. They will not be disappointed. The words “knackered” and “strife” are not seen often in the comics and it is this use of the common vernacular, as much as familiar locales (well, at first), that give The Dark Nebula an added relatability with Aussie readers.

Australian independent comics have largely not followed the mainstream trend of focussing on artwork over scripting, a focus that is often at the expense of clarity and legibility. The Dark Nebula is very much story-driven, with words and pictures sharing the load in fine balance. Of necessity, a certain amount of exposition and recap is required, but these are dished out as needed and concisely. Basically the story flows and the writing does not draw attention to itself at the expense of the art.

The artwork is striking. With lesser writing and without the deft placement of dialogue and narration that we see here, the powerful pencil and ink work of Shane Foley may well dominate. Instead, we have a nicely balanced flow of writing and art combining to tell the story.

Foley has varied panel size and page layout very effectively, combining intimate, dialogue driven scenes with the spectacle we expect from our cosmic hero stories. Layout is also a key contributor to story flow and it is clear that Foley has taken great care with this aspect, helped of course by the caption layouts of Pietrzykowski and Dave de Vries. The eye is drawn easily from panel to panel. There is a minor homage to Kirby and Moebius (kindly pointed out by Medula himself), as well as a hint of Ditko on occasion. However, the overall style is all Foley and has both the power and the finesse needed to match the moods of the story.

It’s Not Always About You, Mark...

Continuing a tradition begun in The Dark Nebula’s first run, The (Golden Age) Southern Cross returns from a one-issue hiatus to take the backup slot in this issue.

Written by Blaire Wentworth, drawn by co-creator Glenn Lumsden and lettered by Chuck Limburgher, the Southern Cross stories are usually rollicking adventures in the Golden Age style. This one is no different but a not uncommon plot device gives the story a very different slant – and even a somewhat cheeky title.

Fun is the name of the game here. The writing is light and bantery with just the right amount of 1940s corn. The artwork adds a slight cartoony element to a more traditional panel layout. The overall effect is fun, with shades of Eisner, Dave Stevens and no doubt many other entertainers of the past.

This is Looking Like a Series Again

Unlike The recap and refresher that was Dark Nebula #9; and unlike the entertaining but self-contained adventures of Dark Nebula #10, this issue gives a real sense that Mark Medula and his alter-ego (alter-egos?) are here to stay. Familiar characters play their parts; remembered plot threads are tugged upon; and the scene is set for future expansion of the Dark Nebula mythos. Now that Dark Nebula has a new home with the Reverie Publishing group, the future looks bright for the Dark one.

Credits Break Down:

Story: The Chaos Theory

Writer/s: Tad Pietrzykowski

Artist/s: Shane Foley

Inker/s: Shane Foley

Colourist/s: N/A

Letterer/s: Tad Pietrzykowski, Daves de Vries

Story: Southern Cross in The Southern Croissant

Writer/s: Blaire Wentworth

Artist/s: Glenn Lumsden

Inker/s: Glenn Lumsden

Colourist/s: N/A

Letterer/s: Chuck Limburgher

Cover Artist/s:         Cover A – Ash Madi
                                    Cover B – Shane Foley and Dave de Vries
                                    Cover C – Tad Pietrzykowski, Ken Raffe and Dave de Vries

Rating: 4/5

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Brought up on a diet of Disney comics, Thunder Birds and 1970s Saturday morning cartoons, Steve has been a comics fan proper since the mid '70s - first with Marvel comics; then later with EC and the wonderful independents of the '80s. After a spell of more than 20 years in which the collecting habit never fully left, he's back - and looking to explore the Aussie scene, old and new.

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