KILLTOPIA #2 / AUTHOR: DAVE COOK / ARTIST: CRAIG PATON / PUBLISHER: BHP COMICS / RELEASE DATE: 30TH OCTOBER (PRE-ORDERS AVAILABLE)
The first issue of Killtopia yanked us by the studded leather jacket into a cyberpunk world where a plague spread by robots has led to bounty hunters chasing them down for money and sport, with the first ever sentient robot, Crash, possibly being the key to the disease’s cure, aided by novice hunter Shinji who is trying to save his dying sister.
Any series’ second issue – particularly one whose debut outing was so fantastic – has a problem of both living up to the precedent of quality already set and building on the groundwork previously laid out. Fortunately, Killtopia #2 more than lives up to expectations, offering the reader all that the first issue did, but with so much more of everything there’s barely a minute to catch your breath.
Fast and intense sci-fi action searing through inventive set pieces is punctuated by efficient character development that leaves sympathetic characters with greater depth and some backstory for others that blow on glowing embers of empathy. Also amplified is the humour, with several satirical swipes taking aim at the fickle nature of fame and hero worship, as well as the callous joviality of pop culture TV personalities reporting on tragedy and brutality as clickbait, the comic frequently revelling in the blackly humorous absurdity of human lives as a business commodity.
New characters come in the form of antagonists King Kaiju, a cola corporation’s mascot sold as a child and now permanently fused to the cockpit of the mecha he pilots, and Yurei, a shared consciousness spread across an assortment of fembots clad in fetish gear. Meanwhile, the introduction of Shinij’s anti-authoritarian friends suggests many people are not content to go along with the status quo of barely clinging to empty existences and want something done about it. Each new detail unveiled serves to highlight facets of a society barely prevented from deteriorating into anarchy, and even finds a moment to imply the world outside of Japan is equally warped beyond anything we would recognise.
The artwork’s chromatic vibrancy remains a constant delight, as though each panel is lit by the neon flare so beloved of the cyberpunk imagery it takes as its inspiration, while references to the comic’s myriad influences come thick and fast – some excited thoughts visualised by cutesy chibi artwork are a brief highlight – but all fit organically and never seem shoehorned in, some even related so subtly they pass unnoticed. Often wordy conversations are fit in by deft lettering that never dominates where it shouldn’t, and distinguishes AI speech with colourful balloons of a rounded digital font that visually portrays the artificial speech.
Surpassing its predecessor and then some, Killtopia #2 amps up the action and injects a welcome mix of heart, soul and humour into its heightened world of psychedelic fury.