City of Dust #4 Review
Writer Steve Niles is beginning to pull all the pieces together in this tightly written penultimate tale from Radical Publishing. He spent the first two issues building this futuristic world where religion and fanciful stories are illegal, for the safety of the populace. Then he moved on to developing the motivations of the characters, namely cop Philip Khrome, who had his father imprisoned after he read a children’s book to him.
Finally, he’s moving onto reigning in all the sub-plots, for next issue’s ultimate showdown. In this issue, Khrome spends time with Ajax, a banished scientist, who with Khrome’s father developed bio-sapiens. These creatures made in the image of fantastical beats were meant to inspire citizens to heights of imagination once more. However, Ajax discovered that some of his creations were taking their “roles” too seriously, becoming bloodthirsty in the process.
Khrome leaves Ajax’s lab horrified, but not without hope, as a Frankenstein look-a-like tells the overwhelmed cop that he is “not like the others.” Khrome then visits his father for the first time, who is now a shadow of a man, drooling in is wheelchair in solitary confinement. But in a subtle yet cool sequence, Khrome soon discovers that his old man is not as useless as he would have the guards believe, and is told that it’s now time for Prime Directive Asimov. As the Frankenstein creature argues with his “father” about the morality of murder and the nature of animals, they are interrupted by creations gone wild.
With its horror meets sci-fi concept, plus some great thought provoking themes this series could easily have become a mish-mash of ideas, achieving none well. Niles rises above that. With a deft hand, he is able to take just the right amount of ingredients from each genre to form an eclectic, yet electric adventure story. With Khrome finally awakening to the breaking chaos around him, and others like Ajax, discovering that perhaps they’re not as smart as they thought, you just know a mad battle is on the way, with the fate of the city at stake. I can’t wait.
With three different artists at work here (Brandon Chng, Zid and Garrie Gastonny) the story could easily have fallen apart by a distracting variation of styles. That’s not the case thankfully. They all have a similar clean line, painterly approach, creating rich environments and detailed characters of the human and not-so human variety. It works, as the art always does with Radical’s books. Next issue will be a bloodbath I’m sure. It will also be a shame as it’s the last we may see of Khrome for a while. Hopefully Radical is already scratching their heads over another mini-series with Khrome and co.