Some Radical reviews

Not "radical" in the sense that they're wildly different than other reviews, but "radical" in the sense that these are two comics by that publisher. You see what I did there? That's me, Mr. Clever!

Radical Comics has been nice enough to send me their output, and I hope that they keep putting stuff out, because even if I don't love all their work, it's always nice to see new publishers in this crazy world of comics. So here are two more issues from Radical!

City of Dust #3 (of 5) by Steve Niles (writer), Brandon Chng (artist), Zid (artist), Garrie Gastonny (artist), Buddy Jiang (colorist), Leos 'Okita' Ng (colorist), Sixth Creation (colorist), and Chris Eliopoulos (letterer). $2.99, 22 pgs, FC.


Niles's tale of Philip Khrome, the hard-nosed detective in a future dystopia that has outlawed imagination, continues, and it's shaping up rather nicely. Khrome is following a familiar arc, which means he's starting to realize that maybe the laws under which he lives aren't all that great, and soon, I'm sure, he'll be in full-fledged rebellion against the state. Meanwhile, he's still trying to solve the crimes that have shocked the city, crimes which seem linked to legendary creatures. He discovers a clue in a body, and werewolves attack a party and kill a bunch of people, and Khrome discovers something unusual about his boss in the police station which leads him to (perhaps) the mastermind of the big scheme. Although it's a familiar story, Niles plots these kinds of things well, and he keeps things hopping along. The art is not great, but it's become much clearer visually since the first issue, and the artists (it's not clear who does what) do a decent enough job contrasting the low parts of the city with the higher levels and showing how sterile the city has become.


Niles always seems to have problems finishing his stories, so I'm not sure how this will play out, but he's doing a pretty good job with the general plot so far. City of Dust is a nice mix of science fiction and noir, and so far, it's worth checking out.

Shrapnel: Aristeia Rising #1 (of 5) by M. Zachary Sherman (writer), Bagus Hutomo (artist), Leos 'Okita' Ng (colorist), and Sean Konot (letterer). $1.99, 47 pgs, FC.

First, check that out. 47 pages of story for 2 dollars. That's pretty good value!

I get the distinct feeling that this comic is based on a video game, or that it was created in conjunction with a video game. It just has that feel - people inside giant robot armor shooting other people inside giant robot armor. If that's your thing, this book is for you!


It's a bit more complicated than that, of course. It's a space opera, and there's a lot going on. Basically, a force of marines is coming to Venus to take over the government, which is bad because in this future, there are "helots" - normal humans - and "splicers" - genetically enhanced humans. The helots are second-class citizens, and under the government that the marines will set up, they will be enslaved. So the Venusian government fights back. Three helots - two men and a woman - are the main characters, and the young lady, whose name is Sam, has a deep dark secret from which she's running away. She doesn't believe in fighting for Venus, but she ends up doing so anyway. All clear?

It's not a bad sci-fi story, although it's nothing too new, either. Sherman, the writer, gets all the information across that we need, and although the characterization isn't too impressive, he does have a lot of plot to set up, even if he has a lot of pages in which to do it. Presumably, with five issues to fill, we're going to learn about Sam's past and her relationship with her two friends, which would be nice. Right now they're just sketches of characters, but a lot of this issue is robot-fighting action, so there's that to consider.

The art is the painted, somewhat murky style that seems to be what Radical is going for in their comics, and while it's not bad, the big problem arises in those action scenes that bookend the issue. Much like the trend in action movies, the trend in a lot of comics like this is toward blurry, "real-motion" panels, jump-cutting from small scene to small scene, and it's very difficult to follow the action. It's annoying enough in action movies, where things actually move and you don't have to linger too long on a quick edit, but it works even worse in comics, where you can stop and try to decipher a panel. When all the characters are fighting in giant robot suits, it's even worse, because we have no idea who's on whose side and how to tell the two sides apart. It becomes a series of blurry paintings of robot suits getting blown up or otherwise destroyed, and lacks any emotional resonance, because we just don't care. Hutomo does a good job creating a space milieu for the scenes where characters just interact, but the battle scenes fall woefully short and make reading a good deal of this book a chore, which it really shouldn't be.

I'm always ready to read a nice sci-fi comic. This doesn't appear to be it, however. It certainly could be, but Sherman and Hutomo have a while to go before they get there. Still, you might want to check it out to see for yourself. There's a lot going on for the cover price!

I'd like to thank Radical for sending these two me, as always. They also sent me two nice hardcover collections of the first two series they published, Caliber: The First Canon of Justice and Hercules: The Thracian Wars. If you wait for trades these days, you might want to check these out. Hercules is the better of the two, just in case you're wondering. But that's just my opinion!

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