Comics Features

REVIEW: The Kill Screen Issue #1

How are you dear readers? All your digital cooks are belong to us. You are on the way to destruction. And if I continue to type this out in Engrish or attempt Leet, my fingers will likely fall off and the editors will possibly go mad.

The comic I am reviewing is The Kill Screen, an exciting sci-fi thriller story with a particularly unique concept that immediately caught my attention – what if video game and computer glitches somehow found their way into the real world to cause havoc. Not in a fun way like Scott Pilgrim or Ace Lightning did, but rather in an apocalyptic, horrific way, spreading like some sort of plague. The Kill Screen offers this idea and plays with it rather well. The comic was written by Mike Garley, illustrated by Josh Sherwell, and lettering by Mike Stock. Anyway, on to the review. Main screen turn on!

The Kill Screen’s first issue is called “ILOVEYOU” (the lack of spacing is deliberate), and begins with one eyebrow raising drama. We are introduced to a woman named Jill and her unnamed friend seemingly being extremely depressed and contemplating suicide. It seems like the poor man is troubled and Jill is doing her best to help him, but there is an underlining tone that something is off about this scenario. Jill’s mate suddenly pulls out a gun, apologises, and shoots him in the mouth. But while his head explodes, his brain doesn’t fly out but rather red computer pixels do instead, which spill onto the next page where a computer error window appears, claiming a “requested page was not found”. Something very odd is going on.

Well as it turns out, an unexplained event known as “The Kill Screen” occurred, that involved computer and video game errors materialising in the real world and plaguing humanity like a deadly virus. There are numerous effects and infections from the deadly pixel virus, but the remnants of humanity are just trying to survive. That might explain why Jill’s friend committed suicide: it is implied he was infected with the mysterious pixel plague.

The story jumps two years later, where Jill is now some sort of weapon-toting survivalist only looking out for herself. She sneaks into a warehouse looking for survivors, coming across the infected and teams up with a chatty but strategic survivor named Chris to escape the hordes of the pixelated. We learn that the surrounding area and people are trapped in some sort of first person shooter multiplayer-like scenario called “deathmatches” where the infected are split into two teams of red and blue (reds being smeared in blood, while blues are literally blue-skinned and covered in error signs), and will attack anyone who is armed with a weapon, which Jill and Chris use to their advantage.

In terms of characterization, Jill and Chris have enough to make them likeable protagonists, and you can sympathise with Jill having a death wish and Chris being a seasoned survivalist good enough to remain optimistic. The issue’s pacing is good, though it does feel a little short, but I did enjoy the vicious cycle that the story presents by the end of the issue, mirroring the first scene. There is plenty of creativity in the idea of the pixel plague, turning people into zombies that seem to act like enemy AI character in a video game, only attacking others if they are armed. The members of the blue team appear to be infected with the Blue Screen of Death, though I’m not really sure why the red team members have to get naked and cover themselves with blood.

The thing that stands out the most is the unique use of pixels and glitch code in the artwork. Some panels show the artwork was drawn first with the pixels placed over them in editing, but it works very well, and creeps me out a little bit on some pages. The humourous use of computer messages works well too. The art style itself is well-drawn and well-detailed, and the characters have unique designs so they stand out. There are also some nods to video games, mostly notably the infamous Zero Wing which is known for its rubbish dubbing translations and the “all your base are belong to us” meme. A mysterious man who appears in the final panel at the end of the comic bares a resemblance to the villain CATS of that game. Jill seems to be named and based after Jill Valentine form the Resident Evil series, and the warning symbol is the “L” shape from Tetris.

In conclusion, I think The Kill Screen is definitely a fun, well-written and drawn comic that deserves some attention and I may have a look at future chapters myself. The creators Garley and Sherwell have had plenty of experience in the comics industry, Garley having written for Beactive Media’s Emmy nominated comic series Collider, while Sherwell has worked on fiction like Dead Roots and his own work like P.I. Charles. All in all, I recommend this comic. It’s a good read.

Does The Kill Screen sound like your cup of tea? Would this sort of disaster on the world be a dream or a nightmare to you? Sound off in the comments or send us your thoughts on Twitter!

About the author

Mark Russell