When we last left off, Val “Sundog” Riggs desperately tried to find a place to save her brother Em while ferrying along with the mysterious Bailey and ultimately succeeding. What’s funny is that learning about Tiberius and his secret sanctuary is the least interesting thing to happen (and it’s all exciting). We learn more about Val and Em’s tragic backstory, along with getting some much-needed insight into Emery himself. His call sign happens to be Stillz because of his inability to sit still which leads to an exciting development.
Val has always been looking for a safe place for her and her brother (and now Bailey), and she finally found it. This sanctuary contains a light that both cures Em and heals those who are injured. It’s light from outside the Big PM, and it’s what keeps the place safe. It’s exactly what Val has been looking for, but the problem we learn is Em. His inability to stand still lends to his need to find something better. Just as Val learns that Em has no desire to stay put (along with some other fascinating secrets), an explosive and shocking argument plays out. The clashing of these personalities adds weight to the story: Val has completed her mission, but Em has just found a new one. It’s a fascinating concept to see play out as the two siblings are effectively trying to protect the other. Em wants to end the Big PM, and his optimism and ability to trust in a leap of faith are what we’re taught to look for in our heroes. Val wants to protect her own and will do whatever it takes to do so; it’s a noble cause and one that we can all relate to.
We also spend some time with Val and Bailey who chooses the call sign “Piper” because of her dislike of the bird of the same name. Between losing her grandfather and surviving what was essentially a suicide run, the sister-like bond that’s developed between Val and Bailey has been exciting to see unfold. Bailey doesn’t want to be alone, and the people she’s traveled with through hell are the ones she’s going to treasure.
The character work has been one of the strongest aspects of the story. Val’s interaction with other characters has always worked in the story’s favor. This can easily be proven through our introduction to Tiberius. We learn about the unfortunate relationship he’s had with his brother and how it lends to his personality and experiences. He acts as a foil to Val, almost like a warning to never let that relationship falter with her own brother.
One of the mainstays of the series is at the end of the issues. Whether they be dark or light is irrelevant; the twists are what move the story forward. It’s kind of like changing gears after cruising for 20 miles in a truck.
That’s essentially what this issue feels like—going on cruise before punching the gas, and if the last panels are of any indication, Snyder and Daniels are about to kick the action up a few notches.
Nocterra #5 is a solid setup to the end of the first act of this new series. And with more questions than there are answers, it’s starting to seem as though we’re about to have the carpet pulled from underneath us.
Creative Team: Scott Snyder (writer); Tony S. Daniel (art); Tomeu Morey (colors); Andworld Design (letters); Will Dennis (editor); Tyler Jennes (assistant editor); Emma Price (graphic design)
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