Review: Killtopia (BHP Comics)

Thanks to writer Dave Cook’s epic marketing campaign, the name Killtopia has been at the top of our most anticipated comic of 2018 list from the beginning of the year. But now that it’s finally here and we’ve been whipped into feverish anticipation, will this dystopian science fiction book manage to live up to all that hype?

Publisher: BHP Comics
Writer: Dave Cook
Artist: Craig Paton
Price: £8.99 from Amazon

The good news is, Killtopia more than lives up to the weighty expectation! Set in your archetypal near future dystopia, it features a lethal game show that entertains the masses as vigilantes known as Wreckers hunt down malfunctioning mechs before turning on each other in the annual Wreck Fest tournament. Entering the dangerous world of Killtopia to take on these larger than life characters is struggling rookie wrecker Shinji, who encounters a mech who is more than the usual tin can, this one can talk, and think. This gets him more attention than  he wanted as the diabolical Mr Saitch sets a bounty out on him and the other wreckers take him on.

Killtopia wears its cyberpunk and anime influences on its sleeves like a badge of honour as it perfectly melds every dystopian sci-fi cliche into one glorious technicolour package. There’s the lethal game show element of The Running Man or Rollerball, the crumbling world view of Judge Dredd and Akira, the bleak corporate dystopia of Bladerunner and Robocop, the high energy visual of a million and one video game and the mechs and Asian influence of more anime and manga titles than we’ve ever heard of. But a bit like The Matrix did 20 years ago, instead of being a bunch of cliched parodies, Killtopia takes these tropes and builds them into something greater than the sum of its parts.

It’s helped in no small part by the outstanding art skills of Craig Paton, whose intricate designs and detailed line work reminded us of both All Star Superman’s Frank Quietly, and also a slightly less detailed Geof Darrow – which is some pretty lofty shoes to fill, and he does a superb job of giving the world a really interesting and dynamic look. But rather than wallow in dystopian bleakness it also has this neon hyper colour palette of pinks and blues and yellows that reminded us of the vibrancy of Brian K Vaughan’s The Private Eye with the character designs feel both very familiar, but also fresh and new. It’s slick and modern, but also has that slightly tumble down feel of the best cyberpunk, with Shunji’s mech buddy reminding us of Chappie rather than the slickness of something like Ex Machina.

The other thing that helps separate Killtopia from the crowd is that it is underpinned with a very British sense of humour throughout, which is brought to you in both the story and the words. From the fanboy who makes the ultimate sacrifice to Stiletto’s ‘I Love My Gun’ sticker on the side of her hand cannon, it’s packed full of little visual tricks and and jokes that stop it from being too somber or heavy going.

After a dynamic opener that introduces us to the main players, the story heads off in a slightly different direction than you might expect, and isn’t the kind of Running Man game show story you think it is going to be. Instead it ends up being more thoughtful and less violent than you presume with Cook and Paton concentrating on world building and character development and the book is better for it as a result. Although at 50 plus pages it did feel a bit like too much of an open ended conclusion and we would have liked it to resolve itself a bit more cleanly at the end, especially after this lengthy wait. However we are excited to see what happens next. It just depends on how long we have to wait for issue #2!

With all the hype now over, Killtopia has more than lived up to it’s lofty ideas, and is a fantastic example of how to put together an exciting and innovative indie comic. It is a fantastic product that more than justifies the wait and is another fantastic calling card for the vibrancy and originality of the UK indie scene and a great addition to the blossoming BHP Comics roster. So if you like your sci fi darkly funny, ultra violent and packed to the rafters with monster mechs and crazy hyper colour villains then Killtopia is definitely the book for you!