Interstellar warrior Onyx journeys to Earth on the trail of a colony of spores that infects planets’ inhabitants, mutating them into madness until the world consumes itself. Landing in the Nigerian jungle, she soon encounters a group of soldiers sent to investigate the spore meteor’s crash site that immediately distrust her, but are forced to team up to defeat the alien threat.
So, alien being with benevolent intentions lands on earth to hostile military reception and must prove her worth, while her motives are questioned at every turn. As plots go it’s not the most groundbreaking, and doesn’t get much deeper than that. It feels like a graphic version of a sci-fi action movie, with both the positive and negative connotations that implies. Some of Onyx’s quasi-noble dialogue intended to make her come across as some kind of Arthurian space-knight, instead make her sound like one of the Marvel heroes in the ‘60s who could only speak in exclamations. It also makes her regular expository speeches sound a little clunky, as though she is an impartial narrator rather than a proper character.
The military unit might be of a realistic size, but this means there are too many characters to keep track of and not enough time to get to know them. They end up more like an assortment of faces than distinctive individuals, meaning that when any are in peril, instead of being concerned for their safety, you are attempting to remember who they actually are. Even having a cast list at the beginning of the book doesn’t really help.
However, a mediocre plot is saved by vibrant artwork, which explodes across every page in a colourful blaze of sci-fi action. Menageries of animals that are mutated by the spore constantly attack the military ensemble, chimeric abominations each more hideously magnificent than that last and all driven insane with the ambition to do nothing but kill and destroy. Small panels like the quick cutting of camera angles keep the action sequences intense and exciting, and during brief lulls, expand to reveal the alien creations in all their grotesque glory.
Onyx is weak on plot beyond its initial premise and fairly light on characterisation, but is so visually spectacular you’re still inexorably drawn to it. It’s a definitive case of style over substance, but when it’s as stylish as this, it’s difficult to be too annoyed by it.
ONYX / AUTHOR: CHRIS RYALL / ARTIST: GABRIEL RODRIGUEZ, JAY FOTOS / PUBLISHER: IDW / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW