Written by Fred Van Lente with art from Michael Broussard, Dark Horse’s primary Free Comic Book Day 2014 offering, “Project Black Sky,” is the type of product more comic companies should be pushing on this pseudo-holiday. Not only does the twenty-four-page comic offer a complete adventure, but it brings along a solid introduction to an upcoming event, gives readers a taste of the characters involved and, in this case, features super-powered gorillas.
The chief gorilla in charge is Ape-X, who knows more about Project Black Sky than either Captain Midnight or United States Secret Service agent Matthew Price — at least, that’s how Van Lente presents the mystery to readers. The issue opens with a fairly standard-issue hijacked-truck-that-poses-a-threat-to-everyone plot, but as the story blossoms, it’s not as big a threat to mankind as initially presumed. It turns out the true threat is Project Black Sky, a covert government project with deep reaching tendrils. The true mystery behind the threat lurks just off to the side, certain to reveal itself more in months to come as the “Project Black Sky” event stretches into other titles. Van Lente gives readers just enough of everything to satisfy curiosity without overwhelming while extending an open invitation to come back for more.
Michael Broussard’s art is solid and detailed. Shadows are prominent in all of the art, which enhances the unknown aspect of the mysterious menace Midnight and Price (who readers are warned to never refer to as “Brain Boy,” despite all signposts leading that way) are combatting. Through some clever infographics designed by letterer Nate Piekos, readers get a sample of America Sign Language, which is how Ape-X communicates with Price to identify Black Sky as a shared threat. Broussard and Piekos, with colorist Dan Jackson make “Project Black Sky” a visually impressive title, with gorillas that look like gorillas, action that moves through the panels, colors that are rich and sharp and storytelling that is direct and clear.
Even though Brain Boy and Captain Midnight are properties that are over half a century old, Van Lente and team make them feel fresh and new, easily encapsulated in this issue to serve as a primer for readers eager to seek out more. As for more “Project Black Sky,” there is no shortage of that coming from Dark Horse. There is a web comic that launched the day before Free Comic Book Day and there will be tie-ins in all of Dark Horse’s superhero titles throughout the spring and early summer. With a free web comic, a conspiracy vibe and a full-length, brand-new Free Comic Book Day adventure, Dark Horse is showing the comic industry how to use all the tools in the toolbox to launch an event.