City of Dust #2 Review

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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.

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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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