In the Tokyo of the future, a techno-organic plague spread by loose mechs ravages the city, partially held off by the efforts of “wreckers”, hunter-assassins who take on the rampant robots for fame and fortune. Far beneath the notice of the wealthy thrillseekers is Shinji, a novice wrecker who salvages any leftover scraps to pay for his sister Omi’s medication. All this could soon be changed by Crash, the first ever sentient mech, who holds the key to stopping the plague, if only Shinji can keep them both alive long enough to do so.
Killtopia has been a long time coming, but it has been more than worth the wait. The setting is a modern delve into cyberpunk, the particularly 80's sci-fi subgenre that refuses to fade away. Forgoing the typical aesthetic of eternal night lit only by the electric fire of neon, this world is instead bright and burning in primary colours, the vibrancy juxtaposed with the squalor in which all but the super-rich must exist.
Throwaway comments gradually expand the history of the decaying metropolis, while background details map out the patchwork assortment of physical and psychological threads that tentatively hold the disease-ridden society together even as it threatens to crumble around its populace. However, instead of the hopelessness you’d expect, there are still indications that people don’t let despair completely beat them down, everyday urban life more evoking the endless creativity of the City in Transmetropolitan than the despondency of the Sprawl in Neuromancer. It’s this inherent humanity that forms the core of the story, with Shinji’s every decision geared towards saving Omi, while Crash’s growing self-awareness and childlike naivety is the closest thing to innocence we’re likely to see.
The story is so riddled with references to the likes of Japanese cinema, retro gaming, cyberpunk literature and any piece of dystopian fiction you care to name, that it’s nigh-on impossible to catch every nod with a single reading. With every revisit you’ll notice something new, be it unobtrusive text in a panel’s corner, a faded image stencilled on a wall or a familiar logo on a background building. As an added bonus, anyone who can read Japanese will have plenty to pick up on from the kanji characters emblazoned throughout on various surfaces. The artwork of each panel is busy but never cluttered, and despite such a clear declaration of inspirations running the risk of appearing derivative, the scattershot shout-outs instead mutate into something wholly distinctive.
Killtopia is a meticulously-crafted fusion of glamour and gloom, perfectly portraying a future as energetically effervescent as it is unforgivingly brutal, and more than worthy of taking its place alongside the litany of classics that inspired it.
KILLTOPIA #1 / AUTHOR: DAVE COOK / ARTIST: CRAIG PATON / PUBLISHER: BHP COMICS / RELEASE DATE: 3RD OCTOBER