Comics Creepshow 17: City of Dust

HAPPY POST-THANKSGIVING! What are you thankful for this year? I am thankful that Bloody Good Horror exists and that I am allowed to write about what I love- horror comics, every week for this site. I am also thankful that Steve Niles exists, because horror comics wouldn’t be as popular as they are today, if he wasn’t around. Finally, I am thankful for Radical Comics, a company with a bold mission - they publish comics with high concept stories that bigger name companies would be too timid to touch. It also doesn’t hurt that Radical sends me copies of their newest horror books to check out (Note to other comic book publishers: I am not going to talk up your horror comic if you send it my way, but I will definitely give it the attention it deserves. So send away).

CITY OF DUST issue #2 just so happens to connect all of the things that I am thankful for together. This issue, shows us the direction Niles is planning to go with this Sci-Fi heavy story. If you didn’t read my review of CITY OF DUST issue #1, go and read Comics Creepshow 10. If you don’t feel like reading that, I can bring you up to speed on the story right now.

CITY OF DUST is subtitled A PHILLIP KHROME STORY. Khrome is an enforcer of the law in a post apocalyptic dystopian future, where all forms of fiction and abstract thought are outlawed. In an interview on the Radical Comics site, Niles mentions how Khrome is “a company man”. On the surface, he believes he is doing the right thing, when he punishes people for telling fairy tales or collecting story books. In both issue #1 and issue #2 there is a reference to the fact that Khrome, as a young child, turned in his own father, because he told him a fable. In that same interview, Niles mentions how their might be more to Khrome than meets the eye.

At the end of issue #1, Khrome finds a corpse that is lying on top of a kids book entitled “My Monster ABC’s”. He reports the incident to his commander, and is ordered to leave the book alone, until a clean up crew can show up. At the end of the first issue, the clean up crew arrives and catches Khrome reading the book.

There were a lot of questions that the reader could ask themselves after reading issue #1. Was Khrome going to be arrested? Would he have to go on the run, like so many other fallen enforcers in other dystopian future stories, like Tom Cruise’s character in ‘Minority Report’ or Guy Montag in the book ‘Fahrenheit 451’? Besides Khrome’s story in issue #1, there was also a subplot involving a yuppie couple that gets murdered by an unseen monster. Readers would have to wonder, do monsters truly exist in this fantasy-less society? Have they been hiding? Are the monsters the ones pulling the strings, making it seem like the supernatural doesn’t exist, so that they can have an edge on humanity? Niles has alluded to a similar idea in his other works. In 30 DAYS OF NIGHT, the vampires want to be considered legends or myths, so that humans will never make an organized attempt to hunt down and exterminate them.

A few of these questions were answered in issue #2. We learn of Khrome’s fate. He is subjected to intense questioning by a GBI agent named Morgan. I am assuming GBI is a larger form of the FBI in the future, with G possibly standing for Global. Khrome is then let go. It looks like he won’t have to go on the run after all. The interrogation scene was probably the most interesting scene in the entire second issue. Agent Morgan uses a laptop that scans Khrome up and down, monitoring his physical reactions, while he is interrogating him. It is very reminiscent of the interrogations Harrison Ford’s character performs in the movie ‘Blade Runner’. There is even one panel where Agent Morgan looks just like Harrison Ford.

We see little of Khrome after the interrogation. He flies off, with his rocket pack, only to be trailed by his fellow officer, Sonja. Sonja shows enough interest in Khrome’s well being, to give us readers the idea that she and Khrome might end up getting together by the end of the series. It is either that, or she is going to be mauled to death by one of the monsters that stalks the lower levels of the city.

Speaking of monsters, let’s talk about the carnage they unleash in issue #2. The book opens up with a shirtless, deformed midget running between the shadows of a deserted street. He looks very similar to that ugly traitor dude from ‘300’, though I don’t think it was the intention of the book’s artist, Zid, to make him look like that character. The midget is carrying a brain preserved in green fluid, in a glass jar. Out of nowhere, seven vampire looking creatures descend upon him, tearing him to shreds.

At the end of the book, Agent Morgan, fresh from interrogating Khrome, discovers the corpse of the mutilated midget. Though the crime scene would be vomit inducing in real life, Zid makes it a thing of beauty, covering two full pages of the book. The midget’s corpse is dangling from some wires, all of its flesh has been stripped away, revealing that it is… a robot!?? Zid does such a beautiful job drawing the destroyed robot: The metallic components and wiring are drawn with such detail that the picture does not really belong in your typical American comic. It should have its own two pages within a collection of the year’s best Sci-Fi artwork.

There isn’t much time for Morgan to investigate the scene. In a flash, he and his team are attacked by an unseen enemy. The attack is brutal. One of the agents has his face ripped off, another looses the top of his head, while the last agent to die before Morgan, watches his intestines fall out of his body. When we turn the page, we see that it is a werewolf that took out Morgan’s team. The werewolf is not alone. He takes the “My Monster ABCs” book from Morgan and hands it to his master, who on the last page of the book, we see is a full blown, Nosferatu looking vampire.

As you can see, a lot of the major questions inspired by this book are yet to be answered. This makes sense, since we are only up to the second issue and it is a five issue series. The one question I am most concerned with is are the monsters real or just robotic creations?

It is possible that the monsters are not supernatural in any sense, but are instead robots created by scientists who are rebelling against the system. That makes sense, doesn’t it? They could create robotic versions of mythical and fictional characters, to force people to have to read books that talk about them in detail, therefore creating a resurgence in reading and abstract thought. Maybe I am right on the money with this theory. Maybe I am completely missing the point. Whatever the case may be, as long as Niles keeps delivering quality scripts for his first major Sci-Fi story, and Zid keeps providing fantastic penciling to accompany it, I will keep reading the book

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