Comics Features

REVIEW: The Kill Screen Issue #2

Written by Mark Russell

How are you dear readers? All your comics belong to us. You are on the path to destruction. I get to review the second issue of a comic I have previously read and reviewed, The Kill Screen, created by Mike Garley, Josh Sherwell, and Mike Stock. I found the first very entertaining with a unique story and cool artwork and looked forward to the second issue, titled “Cascade”. The second issue moves the story along, introduces new characters and worldly elements, with even better artwork and makes an exciting chapter with good pace and making new use of the lingo and ways of the internet and gaming. Main screen turn on!

To familiarise readers with this comic’s backstory, society has been devastated by an incident called the “Kill Screen” that seems to involve computer and gaming glitches materialising in reality and infecting people in various 8-bit ways. Our protagonist of the story is a chap named Chris, who recently failed to save a woman named Jill from being killed by some glitched up psychopaths infected with errors. Once an optimistic talker, he has learned from his mistakes and become a bit of a grumpy jerk who only wants to survive and smoke. However, the comic’s first scene shows the potential first outbreak of the Kill Screen, when a gaming company Star Fruit Industries is attacked by a flying blue turtle shell that blows up their headquarters, whilst the city starts glitching and making video game references (with the presence of a certain barrel-throwing gorilla).

Chris is in the company of two survivors, young Adam and the elderly but resilient Chief. They hide out in a cave and make plans to rendezvous with a boat to escape to open sea. While preparing to leave, they meet two other survivors named Max and Ellie, who are on the run from a group of religious nutters known as Followers who demand that everyone worships someone named CATS (the badguy from the badly translated game Zero Wing) or they will die. Max and Ellie kill some of the Followers with a petrol bomb and leg it, running into Chris and co. Adam and Chief go to meet the boat using a quadbike, while Chris escorts their new friends to the dock which is a few miles away, while pursued by the Followers, leading to a dramatic climax.

The characters of this issue are very likeable, well-written and have plenty of wit and charm about them. Though Adam doesn’t really get much focus, so I’d like to see more characterization from him in future issues. Chris goes through some good development that carries on from the first chapter, becoming a realist as he puts it and becomes cynical about life, though he is dealing with his own survivor’s guilt. Max and Ellie make an effective tag team and are very sturdy despite having no weapons. The end of the chapter introduces an eccentric captain lady who owns the boat. Hopefully we’ll see more of her in future issues too. The Followers provide an interesting antagonistic group. They are very much an evil religious cult, but offer a chance of a good life or guidance in the world (or at least from their perspective). They sport green war paint, and are a reference to a distorted version of Twitter.

The artwork is very good, continuing the unique fusion of drawings and computer graphics. There is a great page of the city becoming consumed by glitches, and other well drawn, colourful pages like the blue shell blowing up the corporation skyscraper and some Followers being burnt alive (watching people being burnt is not pleasant). Nothing really looks out of place or oddly drawn, and the characters always look expressive and avoid getting what I call the Thunderbirds Syndrome (not expressing emotions and standing there with only a moving mouth). I also enjoy the comedy of the issue, with the characters bantering, but knowing when to take a situation seriously. I also enjoy the continued use of internet/video game references, like the numbered “people following” gag from Twitter, which actually creates a dread-inducing moment when the protagonists are being quietly stalked.

The issue concludes with another mysterious look at the comic’s potential villains, who seems to be directly inspired by or even is CATS from Zero Wing. It seems fitting that such a poorly translated and glitchy game fits well in the universe of The Kill Screen. In conclusion, I enjoyed the second issue of The Kill Screen. It could easily rely on just its unique concept to carry it, but the three creators of the comic put their hearts into it and make it a very well-written and entertaining piece of fiction. Looking forward to the next issue.

Have you read the first issue of The Kill Screen, and what did you think of it? Sound off in the comments or send us your thoughts on Twitter!

About the author

Mark Russell