Journey Into Unknown Worlds #1

Writers: Cullen Bunn (“Bones of the Earth”), Clay McLeod Chapman (“Chrysalis”)
Artists: Guillermo Sanna (“Bones of the Earth”), Francesco Manna (“Chrysalis”)
Colorist: Lee Loughridge
Letterer: VC’s Travis Lanham
Cover Artist: Mike McKone
Publisher: Marvel Comics

Review by Nico Sprezzatura

While Marvel’s output nowadays is mostly interconnected superhero fare, it wasn’t always that way. Back when the company was known as Atlas Comics, they had a particular interest in comics spanning the horror and science fiction genres. One such title that published these kinds of stories was Journey Into Unknown Worlds, which Marvel has brought back this week for its year-long 80th anniversary.

Because Marvel’s predecessor wasn’t overly concerned with maintaining a shared universe of characters and ideas, each story published in titles like Journey Into Unknown Worlds more or less stood on their own, which allowed for great creative freedom from their creators. This legacy one-shot features all-original stories from writers Cullen Bunn and Clay McLeod Chapman and artists Guillermo Sanna and Francesco Manna, all very much straddling the line of sci-fi horror the title became known for in the 1950s.

The first, “Bones of the Earth,” is the more overtly “horror” of the two, carrying some palpable influence from the parasitic creatures of Alien. Because the ground covered by Bunn here has been seen in other places before, I’d say most of its success comes from the strength of Sanna’s art, which is genuinely unsettling in spots. Since this is coming from a mainstream comics publisher and not an off-kilter indie (e.g. your Fantagraphics and the like), “Bones of the Earth” never becomes too intense or potentially off-putting, but it’s a good version of what it’s trying to do.

The second, “Chrysalis,” cribs more from the Invasion of the Body Snatchers playbook (with a touch of Cthulhu) but places the action in a boy scout camp, and things go very wrong very quickly. This one has a sense of whimsy to it that I quite like; Chapman’s script is spooky yet playful, while Manna’s art has a softness that befits the setting. That’s not to say it’s gentle or holds punches with the majority of kid characters involved — this is a sci-fi horror anthology, after all.

Lee Loughridge deserves a mention for his colors throughout the issue, which are uniquely distinct across both stories. “Bones of the Earth” favors a sicklier, muted palette, while “Chrysalis” boasts vibrant colors that vary from scene to scene. Overall, he does a good job of maintaining some internal consistency between both tales, while also ensuring they look different enough from the other.

The Verdict: Buy it.

For sci-fi horror aficionados, Journey Into Unknown Worlds #1 is a competent one-shot that celebrates Marvel’s varied history.

Nico Sprezzatura
Nico Frank Sprezzatura, middle name optional. 24. Schrödinger's writer.

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