KILLTOPIA, VOL. 1
Writer: Dave Cook
Illustrator: Craig Paton
Publisher: BHP Comics
WHAT IS IT?
Nano-plagues, robots, and a battle royale serve as the backdrop in this hardcore, cyberpunk saga about a man and his android that could change the world. It's an action-packed apocalyptic comic resembling an open-world video game –with plenty of entertaining side quests.
Killtopia fashions a Japanese-inspired atmosphere like Ghost in the Shell and features a high-tech, high-stakes society seen in futuristic movies like Blade Runner and Pacific Rim.
WHAT’S IT ABOUT?
Post-apocalyptic Tokyo boasts androids – and android-killing powerhouses called Wreckers. The most formidable of these augmented killers participate in a yearly battle royale called Wreck Fest X in the formidable Killtopia jungle for the chance to win wealth, fame, and status. A portion of Japan's slightly sadistic citizens obsesses over the capitalist cash-grab scheme the Wreck Fest produces, literally selling body parts and slaughtering one another for a chance to attend.
Lower-tier Wreckers like Shinji Kamiya, living in the killer-mech permeated Sector K district, merely scavenge for leftover Killtopia mech parts for survival and medicine. Tokyo's poorer inhabitants are infected and dying from an android-induced disease called "the rot." When Shinji accidentally encounters the first native-speaking, sentient mech, he unearths knowledge that could possibly end the rot and save his dying sister.
The corporate owner of a soda company, a ruthless Killtopia champion, and multiple bounty hunter Wreckers will stop at nothing to obtain Shinji's android, Crash. Will Shinji's sister live through the sickness slowly destroying her? Can Shinji and Crash escape their murderous enemies?
Heavily influence by Japanese video games, Dave Cook's passion for the culture seeps onto every page. Killtopia leans on familiarity of Japanese pop culture, but Cook's innovative world-building comes to life in a way that is refreshing and timely.
Craig Paton drenches the futuristic world in a dazzling neon-pop color pallette. Paton's art brings the bustling metropolis to life with glowing signs plastered on every street corner, birds-eye-view panels oozing with detail, and electric character/robot designs.
Lettering by Rob Jones is excellent. The sharply-angled speech balloons enhance the urgent tone of the story. Jones smartly mimics a computerized font type, neatly spaced and perfectly aligned, when the robot Crash speaks.
Personality is evident everywhere in Killtopia, and the creators implement personality on every page. Whether it's the way this team captures the personality of the setting, the city, the characters, or Crash's endearing semantics, the comic evinces a charismatic disposition.
Paton's art style is strongly suited to the narrative's expansive world. His fearlessly experimental and varying panel structure manufactures some of the most magnificent comic page layouts I've ever laid eyes on.
Readers get an opportunity to completely understand Shinji in this first volume. It's a smart decision from an editorial standpoint, since so many other characters and stakes could have easily minimized the impact of Shinji's significance.
Cook balances violence with sentimentality, apathetic characters with passionate ones, bloodlust with humor. Killtopia Vol. 1 excels in creating a narrative equilibrium with serious themes counterbalanced with funny, dynamic moments.
There's a lot of text and material covered to flesh out this first volume, and Jones's expertly written typeface and placement makes lettering look easy!
Killtopia Vol. 1 explores the drawbacks of emotional detachment and the benefits of companionship. Shinji's entire demeanor poignantly shifts during his time spent with Crash.
Of all the characters, Stiletto stands out, in both a visual and nuanced manner. She spits some witty, brash one-liners and brandishes her "I love my gun" weapon that adds some impressive eccentricity to her personality. Also, her decked-out outfits and various killing methods are outstanding.
Every reader will remember the scene where Shinji gives Crash his old jacket that reads "HIGH TECH LOW LIFE" and Crash says, "I will treasure this always." Is it possible to feel this much affection for a synthetic mech who can just as easily transform back into killing machine?
WHAT DOESN’T WORK?
Even though the bold art is magnificent, one major area lacking is distinguishing facial expressions. There's enough detail that readers can tell what the characters are feeling based on dialogue, but the softness of the facial lines remove some emotional tension throughout the comic.
As mentioned above, Killtopia Vol. 1 is a jam-packed, nearly 50-page comic with several characters, settings, and plot threads all weaving in and out of one another. It's a lot to take in sometimes, especially when the art is so tantalizing to visually consume on its own.
Jones does a fantastic job lettering, but the amount of dialogue given in specific panels (like on pages 39 and 40) can feel crowded in the speech balloons.
Explosive action scenes are rendered magnificently, but several dynamic, hand-to-hand combat scenes feel stilted. This might be noticeable on account of the seemingly overly bent hands on the human characters.
Because Killtopia features a plague, the idea of a ravishing virus (especially in lower socioeconomic populations) may hit too close to home for some readers during this pandemic era.
Content Warning: There's some epic, Mortal Kombat-style murders and lethal wounds depicted. Also mild profanity, immorality, etc. And a guy smiles after selling his balls (offscreen).
WHY SHOULD I READ IT?
Killtopia Vol. 1 is essentially a comedic and surprisingly evocative satire immersed in a gorgeous Japanese setting. Dave Cook's dialogue comments on the sadism of societal preoccupation with murder in any form. The comic represents the injustice and literal danger that social class partisanship generates. Despite its lavish illustrations, the narrative describes the horrors of corporate manipulation and the wage gap slicing through the neon-shimmering city's outer shell.
Killtopia Vol. 1 achieves what Cyberpunk 2077 attempted to deliver. This comic is stunning to look at and exhilarating to read. Join Shinji and his enchanting robot Crash as they run from the law, meander through Tokyo, and fight fist-pounding-worthy battles in a comic that lives up to its cyberpunk genre promises.
WHAT DO I READ NEXT?
If you like the writing:
Vessels by Dave Cook & Rafael Desquitado Jr.
Bust by Dave Cook & Chris O' Toole
Space Bastards by Eric Peterson, Joe Aubrey, & Darick Robertson
If you like the art:
Nightmare Man by Matthew Wilding & Matt Rowe
Sweet Downfall by Stefano Cardoselli
The Incredible Bun by Mike Sambrook & Rosie Packwood
ABOUT THE CREATORS
Dave Cook – Writer (davescook)
Award Winner: He has written the comic series Bust and Feather, as well as the award-nominated fantasy saga comic series, Vessels. He has written both two volumes of Killtopia, and is currently working on Killtopia Vol. 3 and a book called Unbound: Worlds Apart.
Dave spent nearly a decade as an award-winning games journalist, and then began his own comics label entitled Card Shark Comics.
Outlander: Hails from Edinburgh, Scotland.
Craig Paton – Illustrator (CraigPaton)
New Face: Although Craig is new to the comics industry, he has worked as a professional illustrator for more than a decade. He has worked as an artist for video games and movies, as well as for commercial clients like Edinburgh Gin, Holland & Sherry and BBC Scotland
Dream Team: Created the cover for Dave Cook's comic series Bust.
Outlander: Hails from Glasgow, Scotland.
Rob Jones – Letterer (RobJonesWrites)
Multitalented: He is a writer, co-founder of the Indie comic company, Madius Comics, and has worked as a letterer for several comic companies such as Image, Humanoids, Heavy Metal, and Scout.
Co-wrote Papercuts and Inkstains, Griff Gristle and Ramlock Investigates with Mike Sambrook, to name a few titles.
Award Winner: He made the 2015 British Comic Awards longlist for Papercuts and Inkstains. HORRERE was nominated for two Ghastly Awards in 2016.
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The image(s) used in this article are from a comic strip, webcomic or the cover or interior of a comic book. The copyright for this image(s) is likely owned by either the publisher of the comic, the writer(s) and/or artist(s) who produced the comic. It is believed that the use of this image(s) qualifies as fair use under the United States copyright law. The image is used in a limited fashion in an educational manner in order to illustrate the points of the author and not for the purpose of entertainment or substituting the original work. It is believed the use of this image has had no impact on the market value of the original work.
All Killtopia characters and the distinctive likeness(es) thereof are trademarks of and copyright Dave Cook & Craig Paton, or their respective owners. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED