Killtopia #1-3, Reviewed
How about a love for old school Manga inspired, dystopian Japan set, high tech battle royale involved, sentient A.I starring savage story with art that starts like Frank Quitely meets Georges Remi and switches to Heath Robinson on acid after reading Junji Ito? Well, it’s Dave Cook and Killtopia for you.
Dystopian sci-fi everybody. A.I centred storytelling, battle royales and tech-heavy Japan. If the originality of the story in these tropes was an Amstrad cassette copy of Galaxia or Sega Mastersystem 2 cartridge or a Playstation disc then you’d be looking at an untangled or dust-filled or scratched to hell game - well-loved but well worn. Then enter Dave Cook with a pencil or full lung blow or one of those weird plastic disk trays with a clear gel you put on the disk and then you put it in the disk tray and crank a handle and little brushes ran across the disk (one saved my copy of Silent Bomber). Does anyone else remember them? Anyway, the point is Killtopia is bloody refreshing, it wears its influences on its sleeves and it delivers a smash hit story utilizing all that’s best of its loved inspirations elevating them to something special. There's no wonder it won four awards for its first issue, but in case this one slipped under your radar read on.
So, let’s start with the art. Craig Paton begins art duties for Killtopia setting some great foundations and bringing the world to realisation. Craig's art for me holds a certain softness that reminded me of a strange blend of Frank Quitely and Hergé’s clear lines dressed in cyberpunk. At times Craig breaks out with really interesting panels, issue one's introducer panel of Anjin MK5 or issue two's Yurei 83 face peel being huge highlights. My favourite parts of Craig's art style shines most in two areas. Firstly the wealth of life that is presented in character design. Every bit of clothing and accessory down to the smallest details are enhancing personality and characteristics with oodles of care and attention. Secondly those continuous narrative pages. The delivery and skill on display in these moments really stand out. With support from strong flats, courtesy of Ludwig Olimba and the lettering of Robin Jones, issue one is a strong package and gateway to the fascinating world.
Issue two is more of the same but with lettering duties handled by Micah Myers. Issue three sees a shift change with Clark Bint taking lead art duties. At CBNUK we last saw Clark's art giving gory details in horror imaginings with Murder Most Mundane. In Killtopia Clark adds a touch of the extreme in a Junji Ito edge, elevating the foundations laid by Craig to a more twisted and brutal place. They say the devils in the details and Clark reaches levels of Satanic panic with the inks of every panel. It seems particularly apt for Clark's style to start on a particularly dark moment in the narrative as we explore Yuries origins. Clark adds a beautiful brutality to this effect. Daves writing is so good you’ll be reading frantically through to the end but Clark's art will force a stop or two and be excellent incentives and rewards for re-reads.
Issue three is very special with the standouts including but not limited to Yureis sermon and crash’s following "awakening", Anjins entrance and Nezumi's "final form". Lou Ashworth brings colours in issue three in an eye meltingly vibrant neon palette. Their delivery of this is a perfect complement to the Clark Bint inks that make beautiful work of the art package. The team of Bint and Ashworth seems a formidable pairing capable of legendary creations. Micah Myers continues that strong lettering work to complete the art package.
Dave's story then. As alluded to earlier Dave Cook has formed something that injects a lot of interesting new life, while representing homage, to its inspirations in a genre that is easy to get lost in.
What's different about Killtopia is its amalgamation of influences to present an accessible and encompassing world with a mystery at its core that is compelling. If your earliest exposure to Anime was Manga VHS you will fall instantly for every aspect of this story. There's succulent sci-fi storytelling on offer. The echoes and nods of influence run like a powerful wave, stacking itself as you stand on the shore amazed, that's the experience of issue one and two. There's a sense of the inevitable but it doesn't take away from the experience. To flog this analogy, issue three then is like noticing the wave is being ridden by a dog on a surfboard. You’ve seen dogs on surfboards, we’ve all got the internet, but what this one’s doing is out there on its own and the way it pulls off those handstands means you can’t ignore it, it’s unpredictable but it’s got a serious purpose, intent and direction. That’s the experience of Killtopia for me.
The plot if you need to know pivots around Shinji, he’s a rookie "Wrecker" - they’re well-tooled mercenaries who hunt killer mechs in a sector of a future apocalyptic event formed, dystopian Japan. One of these tools, the definitely not a doctor, Dr Scratch will bring about a chance encounter with a very unique mech that could change not only the life of Shinji, but the lives of all the inhabitants of the neon-soaked metropolis. I’m dancing around any spoilers as best I can but if you need more this ones got gladiator type battle royale mega-events, A.I driven mechs, killers with a broken past, family tragedy, and extinction-level diseases alongside raging against the machine and machines raging.
It’s sci-fi, it’s violent, it’s good-hearted, it’s tragic, it’s funny, it’s beautiful in many ways and it’s bathed in love for Japanese culture.
For fans of Manga Entertainment VHS, video games, Battle Royale (the Manga and the 2000 movie) or Running Man bloodsports, mechs, A.I, cyberpunk, Japanese culture, Henshin Grannies, nanobot diseases, blue puke and hugely gratifying art get caught up with Killtopia. The first three issues of Killtopia are available here. Killtopia #4 is zooming its way into finalisation for lucky Kickstarter backers so it’s only a matter of time before you’ll see it there too. Hopefully in time for the winter holiday. For more from Dave Cook, there's a Kickstarter launch on the 19th of November for the new title BPM Beatdowns Per Minute which promises an action-packed comic tribute to retro beat’em up games. There's even more Killtopia with a TV adaption being picked up by Voltaku studios with Love, Death + Robots writer Philip Gelatt. I’d also recommend you follow @davescook for all the latest and art lovers check out @clarkbintart, @FiverArts, @micahmyers and @CraigPaton.