Nocterra Blacktop Bill special ADVANCE REVIEW: A gritty, violent origin...of sorts

Writers: Scott Snyder and Tony S. Daniel, Pencils: Denys Cowan, Inks: Kent Williams, Colours: Chris Sotomayor, Letters: Andworld Design.

Back before the everlasting PM (when the sun went dark), there was a man: a traditional family man, one who has a great life, kids, and marriage. One however who spends a little more time than he should, alone, in his shed, full of instruments of death and torture. This however is a story about a more disturbing and violent man. One who could have been a hitman used by the Mafia. Maybe he’s just a normal guy who snapped. Doesn’t matter. He is Blacktop Bill, and he was a terrifying person even before he became the sociopathic Shade who is a myth to some and a nightmare to others.

The regular Nocterra creative team are back with some extra help from Denys Cowan, Kent Williams, and Chris Sotomayor, for something that was a surprise to me. When I saw the solicits for this month, I didn’t expect to see a Special. I also wasn’t expecting to see a continuing issue until the later on in the year, as teams do take a break between story arcs these days. This however is something different from anything you’d expect. It’s titled as a Blacktop Bill Special, and then subtitled as an Origin. Although we actually get a small progression of the main story and backstory behind the character, we don’t get an Origin of how he became the Shade, although it is alluded to slightly in this issue. As this takes place in the past and the present, the Special is set between a conversation we got in issue 4. So they do talk about how Bill became the Shade as being another part of the story. This added to the fact that this issue is subtitled Origins Part 1, makes me believe we may get a Special after each arc to round off not just Bill, but other characters as well.

WARNING: SPOILER PARAGRAPH! The opening of the book is very interesting, as it talks about a “normal” man. All the while you suspect this is Bill, considering the conversation that this is started from in issue 4 ends with “so he killed her”. The point is to drag you in and get you wondering why he killed his family. Then they subvert the expectations by having this guy killed by Bill. Now I did appreciate it at first, as I thought it was a different way to start an origin tale. Although as the book went on and we still didn’t get too much of the man he was before, it became increasingly frustrating for me, as I was expecting the tale of how he became what he did.

One of the first things I noticed was that Tony Daniel wasn’t doing the artwork. So to have people I’m not familiar with doing the art/coloring for a series that I’ve been praising the art for, I was worrying as I wasn’t sure what to expect. I was proven wrong, as the team of Denys Cowan, Kent Williams, and Chris Sotomayor did a fantastic job of brining the Nocterra world to life, yet also distancing themselves from Tony Daniels's work, so this can be seen as just Bill's story. It’s less polished and more gritty, and it works really well with the story being told. Especially when you get lines like: “Civilisation has led to a reality where people were more selfish, more self important than ever before” which is given as a reason for Bill becoming the killer that he was even before the everlasting PM.

Overall, it’s been a great issue diving back into the world that the team have built. Fantastic visuals along with a great story, although I wouldn’t quite call it an origin. Still another well worked issue and a great teaser to get us back into the world ready for February’s Nocterra issue 7.

Nocterra Blacktop Bill Special will be released by Image Comics on 5th January from your Local Comic Shop as well as comixology


Andrew Carr was blessed to grow up watching the animated series of Batman, X-Men, and his favorite, Spider-Man.This started his dive into the comics world, which resulted in meeting his amazing cosplaying wife Imogen. They live in England with their Sinister Six dogs.

32 views0 comments