Based on the 1985 sci-fi film of the same name, Trancers follows maverick trooper Jack Deth in his pursuit of the psychotic Martin Whistler, a cold-blooded cult leader with the terrifying ability to turn people into vicious zombie-like beings known as trancers. In order to save the future (as well as the past), Deth must travel from a post-apocalyptic 2247 back to 1985 Los Angeles to put a stop to Whistler’s murderous plans once and for all – and avenge the death of his wife. In this fun departure from the series’ canonical narrative, Deth is framed for the murder of a police officer, and is forced to fight tooth and nail to escape a prison filled with Whistler’s bloodthirsty trancers!
Right off the bat, it should be mentioned that despite the wealth of movies in the Trancers franchise, this comic is completely accessible to newcomers, with the story serving as a re-imagining of the original film rather than a confusing sequel or bland shot-for-shot retread of the 1985 classic. This is a smart decision, as it welcomes new readers whilst giving franchise fans a brand new story dotted with nostalgic moments, nods to the original and scenes that add depth to the series (we get to see the events that take place on Mekon 7 that kick off the first movie, for example).
Accomplished writers Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray have done an excellent job of recapturing the unabashedly pulpy tone of the series, and have imbued it with a sense of self-awareness that allows the story to fully embrace its oddball concept and have a tonne of fun in the process. Moments that would seem absurd in a more serious story (conveniently timed wing-suits, time travel injections etc) not only work, but actually add to the 80s sci-fi aesthetic of the comic, and as I write this review I’m finding myself constantly having to stop myself from overusing the word “fun”, but if I had condense this review into just one word, it’s definitely the one I’d use.
The quippy dialogue is also very faithful to Trancers, and Jack Deth’s character voice has been nailed perfectly, with one quip in particular genuinely leaving me in stitches after I read it. It’s easy to imagine the original actors delivering these lines in a gleefully campy way; a quality that lends an authenticity to the story and demonstrates a true understanding of the franchise on behalf of the writers. There is a tendency to quickly gloss over seemingly important moments however; and once Deth travels back to 1985 we’re given a single page of exposition that hurriedly explains how he was framed for murder. While it would’ve been cool to see this scene in some more detail, I honestly can’t think of anything else that could’ve been cut to make room for this, and ultimately these inconsistencies in pacing are an understandable by-product of the story’s brevity.
Another strong aspect of the comic that needs to be mentioned is Marcelo Salaza‘s art, which effectively captures the likenesses of the movie’s characters without entering the creepy uncanny valley territory that many adaptations tend to fall prey to. The line between realism and more cartoon-y action is admirably towed here, and as a result the action scenes really stand out throughout the three issues despite a couple of panels that are somewhat hard to follow. Whether we’re witnessing Deth mow down trancers in a speeding car or claw his way through hordes of frenzied prisoners, the art is consistently flashy and fun (there’s that word again), and the action is framed in a way that appears appropriately over-the-top and as a result entertaining.
Marcio Freire‘s colours also deserve a shout out here, as they really help Salaza’s art pop. Whether we’re in the futuristic, neon-tinged Angel City or 1985 Los Angeles, locations have their own distinctive colour palettes that feel very different but at the same time like they belong in the same universe. Even when we venture deep into the ocean, Freire’s colours are beautiful and rich in detail in a way that makes every panel a joy to look at, and no matter the location there’s a very obvious 80s filter over everything that really helps to sell the tone and setting of Trancers.
By the end of the three issues, the story is nicely rounded off in a way that feels complete and satisfying, but at the same time leaves things open for future installments, which is something I really hope we get! So whether you’re a die-hard fan of the movies or a total newcomer to the franchise (I personally sat somewhere in between having only seen the first movie), I highly recommend picking this comic up if you’re looking for your fix of B-movie nostalgia and over-the-top action.
In short – Trancers is a blast.
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