A couple days ago I stumbled upon the indie comic book studio Mad Cave Studios. This is a past time of mine, looking for indie comic book publishers that might accept scripts. Well, Mad Cave doesn’t accept scripts, but they are holding a talent search. All you had to do is write a 6-page sample of a story held in one of the worlds of their existing comics. I picked Midnight Task Force because, A) I love cyber-punk and horror, and this comic fuses the two nicely, and B) I’m not really into anthropomorphic animals, and the other choice was Battlecats. As much as I love cats, I wasn’t really feeling that.
So, to get a sense of what Midnight Task Force is like, I picked up the first issue on Comixology, Amazon’s digital comic store.
Like most cyber-punk, the plot takes place in a broken world, teeming with drugs and sex and violence. This has a bit of slasher horror in it as well, as, apparently, this piece was originally planned as a B-movie horror flick. Let’s get into what this piece offers up.
Plot: We pick the story up 7 years ago before whenever the actual story starts. There’s a military operation going down. It’s in some warm desert climate, maybe the Middle East, but it’s tough to say. Why, with all the technology that they seem to have in the 2050s, there would still be armed human soldiers trying to carry out a military op, is a question best not asked, but something goes wrong. There is an explosion and Aiden is left missing an arm. His friends and comrades are blown to shit. All dead.
Skip forward to present day Detroit. Present day 2055. It hasn’t gotten any better. If anything it’s worse.
A couple are having sex in a car in an empty lot when they are attacked and brutally murdered. The killer leaves a calling card–he/she carves a triangle into each body. The killer also takes the eyes of its victims.
Enter Aiden McCormick, hotshot detective. The man who had his arm blown off 7 years ago has found a new profession. But the first thing we see of him, as readers, is him boozing at a bar and trying to take a scantily attired woman into the bathroom so can fuck her. She isn’t having it and lets him know too. So, we’re not really supposed to like Aiden. He also has all these voices in his head. Each signaled by a different colored speech bubble. That gets explained later, and I don’t want to ruin anything.
Art: The art is pretty vivid. Very 3D, and it works for a cyber-punk world that had neon lights on almost every page. It does, however, get a little cartoony at times, or at least, it just seems a little hookey–again, B-list horror movie, so it makes sense. For me, it’s not the style I’d choose, but I do think it is effective.
Execution: I don’t know a whole lot about the execution of comics, but I do know plot. In fiction of all mediums, there’s a trope called “saving that cat.” This could be a literal cat, but it’s mostly metaphorical. It’s a moment for the protagonist to do something “good,” like saving a cat from a tree or baby from a burning building. There’s a scene in which McCormick cracks this big case in a matter of minutes in order for readers to say, “oh yeah, I like this guy, he’s got his shit together,” but I found it rather transparent. Furthermore, there was some procedural stuff in terms of how the police handled the whole situation that didn’t quite ring true. For instance, the police chief introducing McCormick to the media, which would make him an instant target. I’ve never seen an investigator introduced to the media. Seems like a losing strategy.
Conclusion: Intrigued to be sure. I’ll likely pick up the next one and see where it goes. The first issue did a good job establishing an interesting world. One I like and want to know more about, McCormick, on the other hand, isn’t completely believable, but maybe he’ll grow on me. That’s likely the point.