Darkness Outside The Night
By  Xie Peng and Duncan Jepson
ISBN # 9780956916662
Author’s Website:  http://www.alltheflowersinshanghai.com/

Brought to you by OBS reviewer Albert

*Beware of possible Spoilers*


What is it to be young in modern China? It is an important question. Many predict that one day the country will rival and possibly eclipse the US and it will be their China by then. The truth for most young Chinese is that the future seems very unpredictable. There is the pressure from the grueling competition to secure employment and frustration from enduring an often ridiculous education system. Han Han captures the absurdity of the reality so cleverly in his writing, now finally turning up on Western bookshelves, but there has been little expression of this life in illustration.

Over a period of four years, Xie Peng created a series of intense and beautiful vignettes in reaction to his life in Shanghai. His work focused on the various journeys of a small simple character, significant only by the scarf wrapped around his neck. Duncan was shown these in early 2011 with the opportunity to work with Xie Peng to shape a story for a graphic novel and was immediately keen to collaborate with him. For his part,Duncan had spent several years making a documentary film on Chinese youth and had come to understand the anxiety and insecurity expressed in Xie Peng’s illustrations.

Darkness outside the Night is not a story about Chinese politics, it is simply about the struggle to build a life and work in a chaotic, surreal and cruelly unequal society of one and a half billion. (Tabella)


Darkness Outside The Night is not a pleasant tale. In fact, it’s a very dark tale. Even depressing. It’s a true tale in its way. Oh, not the actual story, just the feelings that they invoke.

Take the first little tale, the protagonist (an impish little orange creature with a pointy hat) sits in a small room all alone watching television. On the television, he sees images of himself being tormented and tortured by demon like creatures. He eventually gets so mad that he smashes the television which breaks the room that he’s being held in. Unfortunately, he’s now surrounded by a countless horde of the demons. It’s a tale of frustration and futility. It’s called anger.

The tales were created by Xie Peng over a four year period to show the daily struggles of growing up in modern China. Not the actual events. Not politics. Not daily life. But the emotions which are much harder to dismiss.

The artwork is dark and foreboding like the tales contained. While fairly simple in composition, it is very effective in conveying the sheer hopelessness of the situations. More complex artwork would have ruined the overall impressions.

In many cases, you can read over a graphic novel and then just remember the artwork and the rudiments of the story. In this case, the message behind the story and the artwork is brought forth. And, you will remember it for a long time.