Writer: Alex Paknadel Art: Diego Galindo Publisher: Lion Forge
WHAT IS IT?
It's a British superhero story that's part of the greater Lion Forge superhero universe, "Catalyst Prime."
This latest run by these creators, however, is less your typical explosions-and-superpowers and more political intrigue, espionage, and deep dives into characters & ethics.
It reminded me of a grown-up Captain Britain comic or a darker Captain Marvel.
WHAT'S IT ABOUT?
(Spoilers for previous issues)
Alistair Meath got his powers back, but he's still got a long way to go before he gets his head straight and his life in order.
For starters, he feels a deeper connection to a fake, virtual family he had than he does to his own family (you'll want to read KINO Vol. 1 & 2 for more info there). He currently lives as a bachelor, separately from his wife.
To make matters worse, Meath is being used as a political weapon. As part of the RAF, he has to answer to Prime Minister Spode, who is the kind of trash-monster-politician you'd expect to see in so-called first-world countries. But there’s some dissonance between his duty to queen and country and his responsibility to be a good person. Cracks are beginning to show in Meath's trust of Spode. But as an entity beholden to his government, what will Alistair be able to do? Even if he resists, Spode is playing a game of chess that Meath may not be ready for.
I love how it seems like Alex Paknadel isn't holding back in the least with his socio-political commentary this issue. It's not over-the-top, although maybe it would've been even a handful of years ago. Anastasia Spode is obviously related to the Prime Minister and her conflict of interest should have stopped her from being a news anchor, but now, that makes people who agree with her like her and trust her even more. But even her biased spin can't hide the fact that there is civil unrest.
Meath caught in the middle of a boat filled with refugees and a (completely unnecessary, yet completely believably deployed) battleship feels like a realistic event, yet provides the perfect metaphor for Alistair's position. The fact that Spode told Meath the refugees were crisis actors still doesn't warrant Meath OR the battleship being there, and is SO so much a representation of some of our current world leaders right now.
I honestly didn't think we'd ever hear about Aidan Myers again, and I'm really happy he's being brought back for a plot development that works so naturally with the story.
There's this balance between this story that has countrywide ethical implications, and the more personal-level issues Alistair faces. While this has become most of our lives, Meath is much more powerful, enough so that he should be able to deal with anything head-on, and yet, he seems just as powerless against his problems as we do.
This idea that Meath would rather just fight giant robots is perfect, because it nods to his canonical past while also representing the greater idea shared by just about any superhero anywhere: It's so much easier to unleash hell than deal with these complicated and nuanced problems with no obvious solution.
Previous issues in the current creative team's run have been titled after RAF squadron mottos that also give each issue its theme, which is a really effective touch. According to Dr. Google, this issue's title, 'Above Us Only Sky,' looks like it's taken from the Liverpool Airport's motto (or the John Lennon song it's quoting), which is still aerially related but more from a commerce standpoint than defense. It's an interesting title for this, since it feels like Meath may not be at "rock bottom," but he's definitely far from the sky.
Diego Galindo's photorealistic style suits the book's aforementioned themes well
Galindo's characters' facial expressions feel more in the spotlight this issue, really helping those moments of high emotion or political greed to resonate
Galindo's 9-panel grid breaks a splash page up into separate panels that cause you to slowly take in the sorry state of Meath's living space, in all its bachelor pad glory, (including the It Can’t Happen Here book which you should definitely read more about, as it has its own set of implications on the story and our real-life society) and also paces out the ringing doorbell, with Jim Campbell's lettering help. Just a very, very smart and well done page by the entire team.
Pinto sticks with Guzowski's real-world-influenced color palette and a similar style of coloring the pages, so most readers may not even notice that the colorists have changed.
I liked how Campbell verbalized the grunts of the guards as they got shot. I mean, that sounds kind of weird. But it was an interesting effect you don't often see.
WHAT DOESN'T WORK?
Valentina Pinto's color seems a little flatter than Guzowski's on the previous arc. It's not her usual style, so I wonder how much of it is her trying to imitate the title's previous palette.
I feel like I can't keep up with the Dev & Coal B-plot. This might partially be attributed to the fact that it was started before the current creators' run, or maybe because we only see brief bits of their story every month or so. But I feel like I need a refresher on who they are and what their motivations are.
WHY SHOULD I READ IT?
This issue begins the second arc from Paknadel & Galindo. It feels like now, they've really hit their stride with this series, and they've molded it into a nuanced story that holds up a mirror to our own problematic world.
KINO #15 is the best in the series so far, which says a lot after the quality of the previous arc. These are the kinds of superhero stories comics should be telling, and it sets Lion Forge's Catalyst Prime Universe apart from all the rest.
WHAT DO I READ NEXT?
If you like the writing:
KINO, Vol. 3 by Alex Paknadel & Diego Galindo
Arcadia by Alex Paknadel & Eric Scott Pfeiffer
Captain Britain and MI: 13, Vol. 1 by Paul Cornell & Leonard Kirk
If you like the art:
Coven by Zach Calig & Diego Galindo
Invincible, Vol. 3 by Robert Kirkman & Ryan Ottley
Moon Knight, Vol. 1 by Max Bemis & Jacen Burrows
ABOUT THE CREATORS
Alex Paknadel – Writer
His apprehension toward trusting corporations and the tech industry also inspired his writing on Arcadia & Friendo™
Dream Team: Is part of White Noise Studio with other upcoming, extremely talented writers: Ryan O'Sullivan, Ram V & Dan Watters
Has a PhD in English literature
Diego Galindo – Illustrator
Most of his experience is doing cover art for comics
Just got brought on as an illustrator on the Aladdin comic later this year
Valentina Pinto – Colorist
Outlander: Lives in Rome
Multitalented: Also does illustration work
Jim Campbell – Letterer
Outlander: Hails from the United Kingdom
Multitalented: Also enjoys the art side of the creative world
Seems to be a favorite letterer for teams based in the U.K.
Jasmine Amiri – Editor
Worked as an editor at BOOM! Studios before moving to Lion Forge Comics
Dream Team: Also worked with Paknadel on Arcadia
Seems to be in a relationship with talented ex-X-Men writer, Dennis Hopeless
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