There are a lot of familiar story devices in Justin Jordan and Ariela Kristantina’s “Deep State” #2; there’s a covert, know-it-all government operative, a populace collectively transformed into a zombie-like state, and a local sheriff whose power is threatened by federal authorities. As cliched as many parts of this issue are, though, Jordan uses these well-known elements as building blocks for a story that, as a whole, comes together as a pretty engaging and even disturbing sci-fi/horror mashup. It’s a kind of “X-Files” meets “Apollo 18” meets “Falling Skies” meets “The Walking Dead,” and it samples just enough from various sources to shape itself into its own somewhat unique effort.
Kristantina draws the entire issue with a very course, almost unfinished look that’s surprisingly effective; the characters are plenty easy to identify, and there aren’t really that many to keep track of. Where this technique works really well is for the more horrific aspects of the issue; Kristantina’s bug-eyed, bleeding-from-the-eyes victim from the end of last issue is downright creepy. A double-pager later on, with a whole horde of these grotesquely altered individuals under the seeming thrall of an alien wearing a Soviet cosmonaut suit, is outright horrific. Enhancing this disturbing mood is colorist Ben Wilsonham, with crimson night skies looming ominous over the glowing cyan trail of this alien creature.
Jordan maintains the suspense by revealing the destruction left behind by this alien, but saving the how and why for later in the series. Jordan establishes that this mayhem isn’t wanton or random; there’s a deliberate method to it, and therefore an intelligence behind it, which successfully makes this menace seem much more malevolent than the stereotypical alien invader. This is where the issue proves itself, as Jordan takes recycled material and fashions a moderately fresh story out of it.
Both creators let the story to come apart a bit at the end of the issue, though. There’s a surprising moment near the end, but Kristantina makes it difficult to discern if it’s a flashback, a telepathic flash or something else entirely. Jordan doesn’t do much to clarify, either, as he relies on repetition of a very peculiar line; “I am entire and effective;” to bring the issue to a close. It’s entirely ineffective; rather than add mystery as intended, it only adds confusion; a subtle difference. Presumably this will be cleared up, but with what readers currently have in their hands, it will leave them scratching their heads.
Despite relying on an abundance of tried and true archetypes and ending the issue on an ineffective cliffhanger, the entirety of “Deep State” #2 is appealing. Fans who enjoyed any of its influences will probably find something to like here.