Review: Dark Matter
“Dark Matter is the first graphic novel by co-authors Joseph Mallozzi & Paul Mullie. These two have worked together before, so much so that it doesn’t seem that you can have one without the other.”
What makes a person a person? Not just a person, but the person they are today who’s muddling their way through from yesterday to tomorrow. Dark Matter follows seven characters who woke up together on a silent freighter in the imposed vacuum of space. They don’t know who they are, what they’re doing, or where to go next — so they just start moving according to what feels natural.
Don’t we all, though.
Dark Matter is the first graphic novel by co-authors Joseph Mallozzi & Paul Mullie. These two have worked together before, so much so that it doesn’t seem that you can have one without the other. Fans of Stargate SG-1, Atlantis and Universe should know them well. They’ve each written about eighty episodes of the whole Stargate saga while producing a whole lot more.
Let’s think about what dark matter, the sciency thing, is for just a moment. We will find ourselves better prepared to examine this story by the same name. Dark matter the material is defined by unwillingness to emit or reflect radiated energy. That means that as far as we can tell, it isn’t affected by visible light, infrared light, microwaves, radio waves, X-rays, gamma rays, and half a dozen more. We can’t detect it with any of the equipment we use to see a star as far off as another galaxy, or our neighbor Alpha Centauri, or the coffee table right under our feet being lit up by our very own Sol. It is there though. It does have gravity, and it seems to occupy the remaining 94% of the universe that our silly little bits of hydrogen, oxygen, and carbon does not. Seems important and huge. Yet we can’t yet put our finger on it. It seems like the soul. It has no weight or mass or anything like that, but it’s there and it plays a pivotal role in each of us. It does in these seven characters as well.
It’s surprising to me that these characters work at all, but they do. Soul or not, each of these characters has only a single defining characteristic and they aren’t much deeper than that. Communications, violence, empathy, redemption, quiet mystery, brains, and robot. That defines the whole crew. This structure runs a great risk of creating a group of people lacking further dimension. It doesn’t continue in the shallow pool. The plot keep a good clip, and it isn’t long before they do know who they are. Then they have new choices and a chance to readjust their course in life. That’s where each character becomes interesting.
About the time that this crew finds out about their less-than-positive past, they also find themselves settling into a little planet-side community that they found after following the their ship’s original flight path to its conclusion. It’s here on this planet that Dark Matter‘s central emotional conflict of the soul meets its central physical conflict. Out in the deep reaches of space multi-corporate combines fight over the vast riches separated by the even more vast stretches in between. Ferrous Combine wants this planet, and they’re coming to get it.
The residents of this planet tell two stories to the crew. One is that they are supposed to be getting guns to fight this combine. It’s a hopeless battle, but it’s one they they intend to see through to its conclusion. The other story is one of an elite group sent out to eliminate threats to Ferrous Combine. Viscous, soulless rumors that nobody, nowhere has seen and lived.
“This is a story of loss, and how each character deals with their losses. Not simply the loss of their memories, but they loss of innocence as they learn the facts of their past.”
Seven characters and seven is important here, know that they were on a course for this planet. They know that they have lots of weapons. They don’t know, however, which group they are. Good or bad. This story is old. One that has been around for a long time. A group of people come from outside a community to defend it. We find these stories all over. In America its called The Magnificent Seven. In Japan its Seven Samurai. The Hellenistic Greeks called this story The Iliad. Even Reign of Fire, WildC.A.T.S., Deep Space Nine, The Mighty Ducks, X-Men, Firefly, The Three Amigos. It is also the same formula followed by Stargate the movie, and many, many episodes of the television show Stargate SG-1. fall in this plot devise group. That’s not the interesting part, though. It’s the people that come together, who they are, and the choices that they make that’s interesting. This iteration is an examination of soul. When this crew knows who they are, and they know which side they were coursed to be on what then will they choose to do with their actions in the gravity of their soul.
This is a story of loss, and how each character deals with their losses. Not simply the loss of their memories, but they loss of innocence as they learn the facts of their past. The loss control over each of their paths in life, and what each will do to regain a feeling of control. Swim upstream in defiance of the seemingly natural order of the Tao, or swim downstream with the established current that each individual seems to be caught in already.
There are no original stories of the human condition, they’ve all been told in some form in the past. We mix the themes and the structures, and find unique iterations that stand out. Dark Matter uses familiar plot devices and brings familiar themes. Dark Matter is hampered most by its wearing of this well worn story. This story is one that Mallozzi & Mullie know well. They’ve written it many times before. They also know how to wear it in such an engaging, approachable way that it’s always fun.
Purchase Dark Matter here.
Read more reviews by Brad Elenbaas here.