Happy New You to all you horror comics fans! Though 2008 saw the birth of Comics Creepshow, I can’t say that the year was filled with ground-breaking horror comics. All the evidence needed to back that statement up can be found in last week’s column. Out of the hundreds of comics featuring vampires, zombies, serial killers, or any other type of terror-causing creature, there were only 5 that I considered extremely high in quality, and one of them (THE WALKING DEAD) is a book that has been around for five years.
“CITY OF DUST definitely was the most original, which is why it made the Top 5 of 2008 list, and why its third issue is the focus of our column this week. Issue 3 opens up with a full page gruesome image of a crime scene. This is no episode of “CSI”, however. We find the remains of the agent who interrogated Khrome from the last issue with his head impaled upon a cracked bone, which also happens to be sticking out of his torso. Cute, right?
The crime scene is buzzing with flying robots trying to discern what could have killed the agent in such a ghastly way. When the crime bots are unable to figure out the logical explanation behind the agent’s murder, Detective Khrome realizes the answers might lie in the realm of fantasy. Getting himself personally involved in the investigation, Khrome discovers metal fragments in the agent’s wounds.
Now, if you haven’t been reading CITY OF DUST you might be saying to yourself, “Wait, the detective doesn’t physically collect evidence?” Well, that is what makes CITY OF DUST such an enjoyable read in the first place. Khrome exists in a twisted future; one in which all aspects of society are set up in such a way to prevent any kind of deep thinking. Everything is taken at face value. Robots scan crime scenes and solve murdered with empirical evidence alone. When Khrome needs to buy a cotton swab to participate in the investigation, he goes to the local “Personal Needs Store”. Abstract thought is so completely outlawed in the CITY OF DUST that everything is labeled by its literal name. Imagination is dead in this future, or at least on life support.
Khrome’s investigation leads him to suspect that the agent and the other murder victims from recent cases have been slaughtered by “living synthetic organisms”. His recent increase in initiative has him butting heads with his commanding officer Blake, especially when it seems like Blake is trying to cover something up. Before Khrome can figure out what his chief is hiding, Blake rips his own face off, revealing his robotic skull. Those synthetic organisms Khrome was talking about…turns out Blake is one of them.
This is the point where the plot thickens. Blake, after putting his face back on, alludes to the fact that he was one of the very few who were assigned to watch over Khrome. This raises countless questions such as - What makes Khrome so important that he needs to be protected by multiple robots? And is Blake and his fellow bots in league with the cybernetic monsters that are slaughtering people left and right? And is everyone in this future actually a cybernetic organism?
That is what is so appealing about this series. Unlike most horror comics, CITY OF DUST keeps the reader guessing with each issue. Each issue is like a good episode of “Lost”, where the story goes in the opposite direction of where you are expecting it to go. It is far from predictable; which makes sense, considering that is takes place in an Orwellian type future, where super powered synthetic creatures, based on the Universal Monsters, come out to slaughter the innocent. It is a buffet of horror/sci-fi fun. Check back next month, and we will see if this mini-series continues to be intriguing, as it leads up to its last issue.