Review: Killtopa Vol 4 & 5
How about a return for the epic conclusion to the machine raging, raging against the machine, comic book series that makes a perfect argument for how comics can surpass other media thanks to inventive narrative and savage art that cannot be represented this resplendently anywhere else? Well, strap in for the thrill ride of Killtopia from the dynamic dynasty of Dave Cook and Clark Bint.
For those that don't know, Dave Cook is a Scottish comic book writer and game history book author with an incredible back catalogue of comics, including Ninja Baseball Spirits, BPM: Beat-Downs Per Minute, Vessels, Bust, Deadliner, and, of course, the award-winning Killtopia. He's also written two video games, Unbound: Worlds Apart and Loot River, alongside being a video game journalist. While juggling all those balls, Dave simultaneously works as a senior content designer. I mean, hats off to Dave just for hard work and still creating bloody masterful work. Anyway, more praise for Dave later after some art championing-ing.
Clark Bint first, and he's much beloved here at CBNUK; ever since we first came across his art in Murder Most Mundane, his work is eye meltingly gorgeous, and Clark's other work includes art for Heavy Metal, Traveller Pride, BHP Comics and Titan Comics to name a few. His art features in such titles as Frank At Home On The Farm, Cyberarchy and Blade Runner 2049. Next, I'd like to profile the outstanding colourist Lou Ashworth who has elevated art in Ninja Baseball Spirits, BPM 2, Samurai Slasher and Pop-Scars. They have blown minds with their work, especially on Killtopia but again more on that soon. Finally, it's the super letterer, the Ringo nominated, Micah Myers, who has worked for DC Comics, Image, Dark Horse, IDW and Heavy Metal to name very few. All these artists should be on your radar, so here are some social media handles to make sure you're up to date (while people are still using the name-changing sinking ship of a platform). Dave can be found @davescook, Clark @clarkbintart, Lou @FiverArts and Micah @micahmyers.
Killtopia has brought these superstars of small (and big) press together into a special force, and if you'd like to get a flavour for both them and this series, you should try the previous Killtopia review we did. Introductions out the way we'll be looking at volumes 4 and 5.
So, let's start with the art. We at CBNUK agree that Clark Bint is one of the finest comic book artists around. The artwork on Killtopia, across the volumes he has worked on, is of a standard rarely seen, lesser so in Small Press. Maybe even equivalent in scarcity as rocking horse shit. Don't get me wrong, Small Press has the magic of unique art that can be beautiful in different ways. There's just something else to Clark's art.
Ironically, for the story in Killtopia, it's art that feels mainstream. Not because there's anything generic or sterile about it. Far from it, in fact. It's more deserving of a bigger stage, more don't we all, and who wouldn't love this crotch warming/fizzing magnificence? The details in this art I once again pick out for barbarically assaulting the senses in the most fantastical of ways. I'm a tactile reader, and I've always gained more joy from the feel of a comic. But Killtopia and Clark's art made me thankful for digital copies for the zoom in capability. The study of each panel is an experience to savour. I made reference last time to Satanic panic, and to re-earth the analogy, I think Clark's art is deserving of next-level cult following status (if not already achieved). I've drunk the Kool-Aid, and I'm printing the recruitment forms.
The first pages of volumes 4 and 5 are arresting, jaw-dropping, flabbergasting, stupendous - I mean, pick your favourite adjective for landscape depicting art that empowers a scene. On these pages alone, it's clear the artistic team of Dave Cook, Clark Bint and Lou Ashworth is deserving of some melding portmanteau (which are popular at the minute) see: ClookAsh, DarkAsh, I dunno CookingBintWorth maybe, maybe not. The point is Clark steps up to the plate of Dave's ideas in freak-powered Sci-Fi anime, cyber-(heavy on the)punk style, demanding, devoutness, and enriched art.
To help him hit it out of the park, it's Lou Ashworths Neon saturated, hyper-idealistic, revering colours; their choices are divine. The colours elevate beyond hover to majestic soaring standards. There are bonkers frantic scenes on offer, particularly in volume 5, but it's Clark's detail and Lou's colours that create something to behold and study rather than be overwhelmed by. What amazes me is just the thought of how this art is conceptualised. To have the imagination to dream up these ideas, then the talent and mind to interpret descriptions and manifest them visually and then to have the wherewithal to amplify their presentation. Mind Boggling.
To go back to the baseball analogy, the topspin on the home run is Micah Myers lettering, just "mwah" (chef's kiss). It's consistent, clear and professional lettering. To spin a different analogy for the overall art, Dave provides the extensive roots, Clark the trunk and detailed branches, Lou the flurry of foliage and Micah the fruit of the perfect Neo Sci-fi majestic tree. Clark, though, is for us a darling dandy of deviant style and drop-dead gorgeous art.
For the story, Dave Cook has a perspicacity for Sci-Fi I've only encountered once before, with the formidable, groundbreaking Arks from Rory Collins. They are two very different fish, but Dave's exploration of the cyber/digital landscape is so very fascinating. I'd love to see the scripts to understand just how much Clark had to interpret for these concepts. The virus-addled brain of Crash is wondrous and carries astounding imagination, particularly when Omi finds its centre.
Anyway, to wrestle more with the plot, and with the assumption you've read the first three issues, let's look at what these two volumes offer. Volume 4 begins with the return, reveal and origins of Stiletto after the perilous position she found herself in. The big bad of the series, #I/O, has a hold on the lovable Crash and is rampaging through Neo-Tokyo while Shinji, the newly gifted Omi and the Koshio-23 militia rage against the machines in a battle for Crash's mind and hopes of stopping #I/O in its tracks, all with the eve of Wreck-fest X upon them.
Volume 5 then, and the day of Wreck-fest X is looming large while Shinji and Omi are preparing to lead humanity's last stand, the revelations of # I/O's plans have forced a new battle to the forefront. Stiletto is poised to participate in Wreck-fest once again, but can she hope to find allies for the cause amongst the other competitors? The conclusion to this story is as bonkers and action-packed as you could hope for and satisfying in every way. It's not just all action, though. Another beautiful aspect of Dave's writing and storytelling is the building commentary on social issues. His talent for articulating views for anti-capitalism as a weapon on the barrier of the class divide is so very special, with a moment for an action figure advertisement showing a skill for satire that emphasises that talent for empowering messages. Just exquisite.
For fans of Sci-Fi, all-out action, meaningful emotional stories, British Gammon food stands, the mystical magic of technology, ninja orphans, spaffing over augmentations, origami Cranes, rallying humanity against murderous robots while breaking down class divides for a better future and Scottish cannibals, in art that punches you in the face with raw, extravagant beauty with colours to set your eyeballs on fire. Please pick up Killtopia's final two volumes. All volumes (with the exception of five) are available at BHP Comics website bhpcomics.squarespace.com/. Volume five is imminent for release here. I promise you won't be disappointed.