“In space no one can hear you scream,” as the famous tagline for Alien (1979) goes. The iconic movie cements the idea that science fiction and horror are a perfect match. Here, its impact flows through writer Jordan Thomas‘ sci-fi anthology Metallic Dynamite. The series boasts creepy aliens and brave explorers that honour the spirit of Alien‘s legendary Ripley. Thomas pays homage to the series while introducing some clever ideas of his own. Many of the stories leave a lasting impression; in fact, there are moments that really get under your skin.
I appreciate Thomas’ choice to work with a variety of artists in Metallic Dynamite. The six stories range on the scale of humour and horror; the artists complement the tone of each tale very well. From retro style to fluorescent colours and abstract pencil work; there are a rich variety of visuals in this anthology. It’s a blast to read each one as you never know what’s coming next. Letterer Frank Cvetkovic contributes to most of the stories. Bonus points for the hilarious B Movie posters that pop up throughout the graphic novel. ‘Crab Vixens from Planet X’ sounds wild. You can tell that Thomas really knows and loves the genre – and the posters are just the cherry on top!
One of my personal highlights is the opening story ‘One More Day’, which really packs a punch. It has all of the unease of the best episodes of Black Mirror, portraying the marvels and dangers of technology. The story deals with a man named Nish who is grieving his wife Alice, traumatised by her tragic death. Thomas handles Nish sympathetically, revealing details of the past relationship via flashbacks. It also plays out like a morality tale; warning of the consequences of going too far when it comes to the rules of life and death.
Visually, it’s very effective. Artist Anna Readman mostly uses sepia tones and moody blues. This adds a retro feel to the story despite its ground-breaking technology. The exceptions to this colour scheme are deliberate and powerful. Readman uses a deep red to convey the danger of Alice’s death, and warm golden yellows when she appears to Nish in the present. These paint her in an almost angelic light. I like how this toys with the idea of Nish escaping from his reality via memories and illusions. I really like how one page intersperses a large portrait of Alice with moments from the past and present. This is a reflection of Nish’s fractured consciousness. Another highlight plays out like some sort of demented paradox; eight versions of Alice in various states of decay surround Nish. It’s a gruesome image that really stays with you.
Another standout story in Metallic Dynamite is ‘It Wasn’t the Tacos’. Thomas blends body horror and dark humour with ease. When protagonist Gary experiences some digestive issues, he soon learns it is more than just bad food. An alien race pollutes Earth’s water, taking over humans in a body-snatching nightmare. I like Thomas’ use of “homicidal ass monster” which makes me laugh despite the disturbing events that unfold. With everyone sprouting tentacles and losing their minds, Gary finds himself in a unique predicament. He is a “blinker” – a conscious host who retains his awareness. The idea of watching the destruction of the rest of the human race while hosting an alien within is grim, to say the least. Despite this, Thomas still finds ways to give Gary some semblance of a mundane, normal life, including an alien therapy session.
Artist and letterer JF Totti is an excellent match for this story, creating some memorable images. They use bright greens, pinks and blues that remind me of classic 90s cartoons. Only, this story wouldn’t have been shown on a Saturday morning. The color scheme is a smart choice. It helps to present a disturbing story in a way that is easier for the reader to digest. As a result, the image of streets covered in slime stands out as a new take on the post-apocalyptic cities that we usually see in fiction.
I must also give an honourable mention to the final story ‘An End Before a Beginning’. Thomas creates a fascinating coda to Metallic Dynamite alongside artist and letterer Lucy Sullivan. The story plays out as a discussion between two deities: the Outgoing and the Incoming. I’m impressed by the way Thomas conveys a sense of lore of these creators in mere pages. For example, using symbols to represent the names of the gods creates an extra level of power and history. It’s as if their names are beyond our comprehension. In fact, the scenes feel almost Shakespearean. Sullivan uses an italicised font for these conversations that support this idea.
Also, Sullivan’s art is gorgeous. It is abstract, rich in texture, and creates an otherworldly feel. She presents the deities as humanoid, but with a particular elegance and depth to their features. They are beautiful and fearsome in equal measure. The way Sullivan uses colour in this story reminds me of gemstones such as opals. This again adds a mystical quality to the pages. The artwork on the final page reminds me of Yoshitaka Amano‘s amazing work for the Final Fantasy series over the years. I really love this style and it’s a beautiful way to round off the anthology.
Overall, I’m a big fan of Metallic Dynamite. If you’re into sci-fi horror, it’s a like a pick ‘n’ mix of genre gold. The anthology blends scares, jokes and pathos, with something for everyone. While here I mainly focus on a few of the stories, I recommend the full collection. Artists Benjamin AE Filby, Carlos López, Shaky Kane and colourist Ellie Wright do fantastic work in the remaining stories. Thomas’ personal insights into why he loves Alien, and other comics that inspire him, are also fun to read. If you’re looking for some otherworldly adventures, look no further than Metallic Dynamite!
Do you love sci-fi and horror? Do you like a story that stays with you long after you have finished reading it? You can find Metallic Dynamite over at Burnt Barn Comics. Tell us, what do you think of this anthology down in our comments or stop by and say hi over on Facebook!