The latest book from James McCulloch sees him go all post apocalyptic thriller on us but with a back catalogue like his there’s sure to be some twists & turns in there.
Opening with an ominous presentation to the government where a top scientist lays it out for them and us – it seems like the US population has reached a critical point in a catastrophe labelled ‘The Red’. The world’s livestock have been effectively wiped out by this new virus and in the aftermath of this news we’re brought to the present day and the stark realization that daily life comes at a price when food is scarce and aliens are plentiful.
The families struggling to survive are trapped in a ‘food for blood’ trade off that sees the aforementioned aliens taking full advantage of the position of power they’ve found themselves in and with the natives getting restless it feels like James is gradually turning the screw in a cruel game of comic book entertainment. The risks and challenges the core survivors find themselves in seems bad enough but the relentless actions of the blood-seeking bad guys take things to a whole new level.
James previous work on a flood of horror titles gives him just the right tools to tackle a thriller in this way and as he deals out a set of characters to connect with, he’s fully aware that he can choose exactly who lives or dies……so he’s the all-powerful alien in this creative team. He’s backed up in his evil plans to get you more comics by artist Jonathan Scott who nails it with the character designs from the very beginning.
The simple style of the survivors offset against the advanced aliens gives it a “David vs Goliath” aesthetic which ends up being a visual slap in the mouth for what gradually unfolds. Gruesome in places but not overly in your face as the thriller element is keeping things in check, it all ends up being a curious blend of village life and sci-fi threats that places the emphasis on anyone being fair game as the next casualty….and that only compounds the threat level, something that James weaves and Jonathan adds detail to. Kudos to Rob Jones on lettering too as he manages the dialogue to keep the story hitting those plot points at just the right pace.
As apocalyptic a scenario as you can get, the team stray away from too many cliches and instead settle for keeping the worst events on the periphery to build the suspense through until the very last page. A slick change of direction for James from horror and even though he is still playing to his strengths with some of those gruesome scenes he has Jonathan & Rob backing him up like the alien henchmen they are – this all feels like the start of something interesting for each of the creators to have in their back catalogues. More of this soon please!