A follow up to the Back in the Game collection from 2015, The Train Job picks up a decade after opportunistic conman Neroy Sphinx unwittingly opened the gates of hell on a distant planet. Although the emergence of infernal forces was delayed, it was only a temporary measure and now humanity stands on the brink of self-destruction as a plague of doom is being unleashed upon the universe.
Back in the Game was a collection of short and self-contained tales that each offered a snapshot of an event in Sphinx’s life, but The Train Job is the first of a single serialised tale where he attempts to make it back to the planet where he made his apocalyptic mistake. Aiding him are his sometime allies of the psychic telepath Griffin and bioengineered killing machine Fenris, although they are largely along for the ride as much as anyone who becomes embroiled in the devious grifter’s schemes typically ends up.
As self-serving and borderline sociopathic as Sphinx is, he nevertheless remains a fascinating individual to follow, his attitude ever wavering in the grey area between assertive confidence and glib arrogance. The thought process of his machinations runs faster than he can verbalise them, and so at each moment he only imparts enough information to get people to do what he needs them to, while his mind is already ahead by several stages and its only when events have caught up that he explains the full extent of his calculations.
The pervading sense of despair and encroaching damnation give the story a sense of direction and purpose, for the first time feeling that its events will have wide ramifications however they ultimately play out. Baleful graffiti scrawled on buildings and the mess of a recent suicide splattering a pavement mar the otherwise pristine cleanliness of a sci-fi cityscape, the visual tarnishes a physical reflection of the emotional darkness swiftly enveloping humanity, and with them comes the certainty that the situation has no easy solution and certainly no resolution without significant intervention.
Despite already being twice as long as any previous Sphinx tale The Train Job is only just getting started, and it’ll be intriguing to see how the rapid-fire mind games function when played out over a longer-form story, as well as exactly how a galaxy-spanning armageddon can possibly be averted.
NEROY SPHINX: THE TRAIN JOB / AUTHOR: DANIEL WHITSON / ARTIST: DAVE THOMSON / PUBLISHER: FUTUREQUAKE PRESS / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW (IN THE LATEST EDITION OF FUTUREQUAKE)