City of Dust #5 Review

City of Dust #5Bringing things to a tasty close, this horror/sci-fi mini-series from Radical Publishing is the final action packed issue, in what has been an engrossing tale.

As cop Philip Khrome, his partner Sonja and the android Blake enter a secret stairway under a statute of the city’s once revered scientist, Henry Ajax, they discover the library of books that inspired him in creating his robotic monsters that have been terrorising the populace as of late. As we learnt in the previous issues, Ajax’s dream was to remind the citizens of the power of imagination and creativity (which have been banned in this future). However, as Khrome dug deeper into various brutal deaths by monsters including wolf men and zombie look-alikes, he realised that even monsters created by men are still monsters, and they start to exhibit the blood thirsty traits of their literary namesakes.

While Khrome and co. do some quick research about the monsters strengths and weaknesses, Ajax is discovering them firsthand. Defended by his protective Frankenstein creation (who calls him father) Ajax is quickly beheaded, but like any good cyborg, still manages to communicate, apart from his torso.

The leader of Ajax’s fellow creations, Nosferatu learns of Khrome’s plans to bring these mechanical creatures of myth down, and goes on a hunt. Khrome, Sonja, Blake and Frankenstein fight back and blood and metal fill the air.
This is the quickest read of the series so far. There’s far less talking and more action than previous issues. It does seem slightly rushed and could have benefitted from a few more pages, detailing Nosferatu’s rise to power and desire to welcome the growing blood lust inside him. After such a grand build-up over the previous four issues, the showdown is a let down. However, in the last few pages we get the ending we’ve wanted throughout this series, as Khrome realises the mistakes of his past and understands the potential of the imagination. It wouldn’t surprise me if we get another mini-series set in Khrome’s world. I have a feeling Steve Niles has a few more tales to tell yet.

The art is okay in this finale. Brandon Chng, Zid and Garrie Gastonny have similar styles and for different artists, the pages aren’t too jarring. The series’ slick visuals and great lighting and texture effects have given City of Dust a great look in every issue. The Trade collecting the entire mini will be released in May and is well worth a look. It’s built upon a simple, but unique concept and the combination of jet packs and androids, with hungry monsters and brutal deaths is an engrossing one. For those who wished Blade Runner was directed by Wes Craven, your wish is Radical’s command.

City of Dust #4 Review

nov084232fSteve Niles is beginning to pull all the pieces together in this tightly written penultimate tale. He spent the first two issues building this futuristic world where religion and fanciful stories are illegal, for the safety of the populace. Then he moved on to developing the motivations of the characters, namely cop Philip Khrome, who had his father imprisoned after he read a children’s book to him.

Finally, he’s moving onto reigning in all the sub-plots, for next issue’s ultimate showdown. In this issue, Khrome spends time with Ajax, a banished scientist, who with Khrome’s father developed bio-sapiens. These creatures made in the image of fantastical beats were meant to inspire citizens to heights of imagination once more. However, Ajax discovered that some of his creations were taking their “roles” too seriously, becoming bloodthirsty in the process.

Khrome leaves Ajax’s lab horrified, but not without hope, as a Frankenstein look-a-like tells the overwhelmed cop that he is “not like the others.” Khrome then visits his father for the first time, who is now a shadow of a man, drooling in is wheelchair in solitary confinement. But in a subtle yet cool sequence, Khrome soon discovers that his old man is not as useless as he would have the guards believe, and is told that it’s now time for Prime Directive Asimov. As the Frankenstein creature argues with his “father” about the morality of murder and the nature of animals, they are interrupted by creations gone wild.

With its horror meets sci-fi concept, plus some great thought provoking themes this series could easily have become a mish-mash of ideas, achieving none well. Niles rises above that. With a deft hand, he is able to take just the right amount of ingredients from each genre to form an eclectic, yet electric adventure story. With Khrome finally awakening to the breaking chaos around him, and others like Ajax, discovering that perhaps they’re not as smart as they thought, you just know a mad battle is on the way, with the fate of the city at stake. I can’t wait.

With three different artists at work here (Brandon Chng, Zid and Garrie Gastonny) the story could easily have fallen apart by a distracting variation of styles. That’s not the case thankfully. They all have a similar clean line, painterly approach, creating rich environments and detailed characters of the human and not-so human variety. It works, as the art always does with Radical’s books. Next issue will be a bloodbath I’m sure. It will also be a shame as it’s the last we may see of Khrome for a while. Hopefully Radical is already scratching their heads over another mini-series with Khrome and co.

City of Dust #3 Review

cod3_covera_clint_langleyThere are very few series I look forward to each month. This is one of the fortunate to make the cut. Along with Geoff Johns’ Action Comics, Paul Dini’s Detective Comics and select titles from Jeph Loeb and Brian Michael Bendis, I know with City of Dust I’m guaranteed a good read.

Steve Niles (30 Days of Night) has used the series thus far to craft a tight story within a compelling world. There’s no extraneous information. Every character, every concept and every panel is all there for a reason. 5 issues isn’t a lot to make a lasting impression with an original concept from a new publisher, but Niles and his assorted artists serve up quality by the shovel full.

City of Dust’s core concept is an intriguing one. In the future, creativity is basically abolished, with all religion and art banned so as not to corrupt the minds of the masses. Protagonist Philip Khrome is a cop who imprisoned his father years ago for reading him a fairytale, but now he is beginning to see that perhaps such stories aren’t as corrupting as the lawgivers say.

cod3_coverb_lucioIssue 3 opens with a gruesome scene, of which this series is not shy of, as Khrome uses some old school CSI techniques to determine exactly what happened. His superior, Blake believes Khrome’s mind is slightly askew for not putting his trust in the crime scene bots, who say that there is no evidence amongst the bloody corpse. Facing suspension, Khrome walks away, with fellow cop, Sonja to check out an old evidence storage area. At the same time what appear to be werewolves brutally attack a high society ball. Khrome gets called into Blake’s office, but instead of receiving the expected, “You’ve gone too far! You’re off the case!” type scenario we’ve seen in every Steven Seagal film, Khrome gets a surprise. Blake takes his face off, revealing himself to be a Terminator-like android, created by Henry Ajax. Ajax was once a respected proponent of hi-tech gadgetry, but has now gone underground after being disgraced. Blake and Khrome visit him, surrounded by assorted monsters, and the importance of Khrome’s father in the story takes another step forward. The dramatic change in behaviour from Blake can only be attributed to him “saving face” in front of the other cops, due to the fact that moments later he’s pleasantly talking to Khrome like an old buddy. With Sonja, and now Blake, it seems Khrome’s allies are growing, but they still prefer to remain closet friends, lest they too get in trouble with the harsh authorities. This is never spoken, despite Khrome’s noir-like captions (which work well), so there is some assumption on the part of the reader, which is never a good move. However, the series’ concept and visuals rise above these minor storytelling distractions.

cod3_coverc_michal_ivanThis isn’t the best issue so far, and has less of the supernatural elements introduced in the previous two issues. The art is also different, but not in a jarring way. Brandon Chng handles the art chores here, whereas it was Zid on the previous two. Both have a similar painterly style, with great textures and lighting effects, but Zid’s is the better of the pair. This issue is a slight mis-step in the series as it doesn’t really propel things forward until the last few pages, but with only two issues remaining until the conclusion, Niles will undoubtedly unleash a barrage of blood, and answers, upon us as the sci-fi scenario and horror elements finally meet head on, as tantalisingly promised in this series.

This issue goes on sale December 24.

City of Dust #2 Review

cod2-cv1

Radical Publishing have done it again. The company’s Freedom Formula had me drooling over the pages and now we have a new contender. City of Dust by Steve Niles, the writer most known for his horror work (30 Days of Night) shows that he can cross genre boundaries with ease. The second issue reads a lot quicker than the first one, after last month’s set up of the premise and characters, and the premise is this: a sci-fi city where the words dystopia, totalitarian and Big Brother seem appropriate descriptions. Yes, it may remind you of 1984 and the under-rated 2002 film Equilibrium (starring Christian Bale) with the government stamping down on works of fiction and seeking to control its citizens through strict laws. However, City of Dust is shaping up to be a series that shakes off such simple comparisons. It has a look that will appeal to fans of Blade Runner and Minority Report – all gloss and sheen, but with a hidden dark side, and Niles brings in elements often unfamiliar to such tales to give it a new edge. Mainly those elements involve something Niles is very familiar with; nasty beasties and gore. Melding sci-fi and horror is a wise move, and this series needs it to lift it above the obvious comparisons mentioned.

Protagonist Philip Khrome is a detective who, as a child, dobbed in his father for reading him a bed-time story; an act which is illegal in his city as such fantasies can warp minds and lead to all sorts of weird behaviour. Fanboys will be familiar with this theory. Last issue Khrome was discovered reading a children’s book red-handed (under a corpse no less) and in issue #2 is investigated by the doubting GBI for his actions. More is revealed about Khrome’s relationship with his father as he discovers that the corpse and his imprisoned Dad are somehow connected. Plot points are also set up here that will surely lead to Khrome questioning who he can really trust around him, including his fellow cop, Sonja. There are also more obvious horror themes here than last issue, with the various creepies beginning to reveal themselves (as the GBI discover the hard way) and presumably make their way into the real world to show that they can not be so easily forgotten. A showdown between jet pack, ray gun wielding police and drooling inhuman creatures ought to be fun to witness, if that’s where Niles is going with this.

The book looks great, as many have come to expect from Radical. Choosing Imaginary Friends Studios, the Singaporean based art studio was a real find. It may be hard to discover extraordinary, new talent in this industry and Radical have looked where perhaps no other company has- outside the obvious fan base and disovered some real gems. Zid, this series artist continues to give the book a CGI look that’s a touch shy of Adi Granov, with just as much depth and texture. The motion and action are less than the first issue, but we have scary looking monsters and gruesome deaths to make up for it, and there are two double page spreads that are very impressive indeed. Radical needs to lock Zid into an exclusive contract, and quick. The variant covers that each title receives is also a nice touch and this has got to be the best of the bunch. You’ll be hard pressed to decide which of the four you want to take home.

There are only three issues left of this series, so hopefully Khrome wakes up, monsters show up and the city changes its view on what’s acceptable reading material after all is said and done.

cod2-spread

City of Dust #1 Review

Radical launch another title on October 1 with City of Dust, a 5 issue mini-series reminiscent of Blade Runner, Minority Report and the Christian Bale film, Equilibrium. Even those unfamiliar with the work of authors such as Philp K. Dick, certain aspects of this story will still appear familiar, such as the concept of mind crimes. COD’s future world has been constructed upon the belief that “fantasy, religion and imagination were wastes of the human mind, and served to corrupt the individual and pollute the masses.” Imagination is a scary place in this world, which means no comics. How cruel.

A future city where the government controls everything and any fantastic stories or ideologies are outlawed is nothing new. In fact, apart from the art the concept bears a loose resemblance to Freedom Formula, another Radical series. Those similarities are not glaring however and City of Dust makes a rather nasty (in a good way) first impression in its opening pages to ensure it diverges enough from other sci-fi tales.

Steve Niles is a strong enough writer to make this tale more than a knock-off . His horror leanings are hinted at, with multiple, violent deaths and a mysterious pair of bad guys. Well, I think they’re bad guys. Not much is given away. Just enough to entice readers into this world and start salivating for the next issue, especially on the last page where the protagonist is caught red-handed by his superiors partaking in an outlawed activity.

The hero of this adventure is homicide cop Philip Krome. A man filled with doubt, and lust apparently. He unwittingly imprisoned his father as a boy, after being told a classic, and illegal, children’s story. Niles gives Khrome enough uncertainty in his job that we are able to sympathise with him when he kills a nervous man reaching for a crucifix, not a weapon as Khrome assumed. The world building is just beginning and this 48 pager sets the tone well. A massive chunk of that comes from artist Zid.

Zid’s art is close to two of Marvel’s current stars, Adi Granov and Gabriele Dell’otto in the way colour and light is used to create an evocative atmosphere. I’d say this may be Radical’s best looking book to date. If you’re a fan of those artists, you must grab  City of Dust. The sense of depth adds a great deal of realism in the bustling city setting and creates a world of texture and beauty.

The liberally applied violence, profanity and sex also makes this Radical’s most adult book to date, so be warned. With its talk of mind crimes and hi-tech crime fighting gizmos, some hardcore sci-fi lovers may be tempted to roll their eyes with a “seen it all before” attitude. That would be a mistake. As The Matrix showed, as well as the films mentioned above, there is still much uncharted territory in gritty futuristic tales.

Visit here for a massive 19 page preview of this issue.

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