Comic Review: Midnight Task Force, Issue 1

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.

Image result for midnight task forceSo, 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.

Wasted Space #1 by Michael Moreci, Art by Hayden Sherman, Colored by Jason Wordie, Lettered by Jim Campbell, Vault Comics 2018

This is a comic I’ve been waiting for. I love the cyber punk genre, and I’m a little surprised that the medium of comics hasn’t taken to this exquisitely visual heavy genre, even the prose heavy literature of William Gibson and Neal Stephenson have an emphasis on the visual nature of cyber punk, and I think Wasted Space fits right into this genre judging by the first issue.

The Set-Up:

The first issue of any comic is always half satisfying and half a letdown, and #1 of Wasted wasted-space-01-cvr-a-sauvage_website-830x1276Space is no different. Why? Well, it’s satisfying because the world is an interesting one and the cast is introduced, and in this first issue–you get a real feal for the protagonists. But it’s tempered with that letdown, as well, because only enough happens to get readers to the point of the *what is going to happen next* stage, and then the issue is over. But will I be acquiring #2? Yes. Certainly.

Plot:

Holding with the cyber punk genre, Wasted Space features a world–or rather, a galaxy gone to shit. Cyber punk always boarders or is dystopic; think megacorporations, rogue agents, autocratic rulers, and profiteering religious leaders. Wasted Space may not have all these, but it certainly has enough to land in firmly in the genre. Then there are the body enhancements multiple characters have and the fact that the main characters side-kick is a cyborg of sorts. Okay, I know this is still more about the world than the plot–the plot starts off with Billy Bane floating around in space on a cord attached to his spaceship. He’s philosophizing about the creator. God. Yahway. Whatever. Billy was once The Voice of The Creator, and he hints at how his whole life got shit on because of his status in the church or religious organization. Then he gets his robot friend to take him down planet side to a festival to score some kind of drugs. I think it would be a misrepresentation of nihilists to call Billy a nihilist. Nihilists are typically more optimistic in their actions, if not their thoughts.

Art:

The art in this piece is pretty strange. It’s definately not the most beautiful comic you’ll ever read. But neither is it suppose to be. Jarring at first, the hard and thick lines used to make up peoples’ features, start to take on new meaning once you see how despressing the galaxy really is. Only in a few panels do any characters have actual eyes. More common are just black dots or mostly dark horizontal slashes. The difficulty, and the surprising part about this, is that it is still very clear which lines are eyes compared to eyebrows. There are also just a ton, and I mean a TON of straight lines. Hardly anything is curved in this, other than hair, making the whole piece feel jagged and rugged–which is the point.

Conclusion:

I think this first issue checks all the boxes a #1 comic should. It intrigues, it endears, and it entrtains. Excited for the next, which I’ll pick up as soon as I can.

I Take Myself Too Seriously

I’ve sometimes thought that I take myself too seriously as a writer. Then I realize I definitely do. When did writing become a chore, a line on my “to-do” list. When did it stop being my exploration into the human nature we all exhibit and start being the long hard slog of artistic endeavor? I’ll tell you when.

Revision.

Of course, revision isn’t typically thought of as a “when” but let me assure you it is. Revision is time that spans months and even years. And it’s not fun. Not for me anyway. For me it’s something else to check off. So that’s when writing stopped being fun. This isn’t to say it’s not fulfilling, or course.

But now, with my thesis approved and graduation nearly innevitable, writing can be fun again. I have so many ideas for stories I just haven’t had time for, as well as some revisions I can do–if I so feel like getting something up to publication standards.

But back to the fact that I take myself too seriously. I do. And one way I do this is by saving all my work for some unknowable publication in the far distant future instead of writing for writing’s sake. I think it’s part of a writer’s evolution to want readers, but why must I publish through the traditional channels to feel accomplished? Why not publish it online. Why not put work out there, into the ether and see what comes back. I believe (though I have no way to know) that I’m an above average writer of fiction (ego ego ego)–so why can’t I have an online following? I mean, that’s what this here blog is for, and it doesn’t get a thousand views each day, but it gets some and that’s enough for me.

I know you know my novella The Night Sputnik Flew is being serialized up on Jukepop, but now I’ve decided to put a work in progress up there as well. It’s called MODED, and it’s a science-fantasy-cyberpunk thriller. I call it science fantasy because it’s more fantastical than it is scientific, but there is a lot of unexplained technology in it which could make it fall into the science fiction realm.

With this piece I’m just aiming to please myself. I’m not writing for a deeper purpose. I’m writing characters I think are exciting and intersting and putting them through a ringer of a plot that I think is exciting and interesting. Maybe the piece raises questions about technology, but it’s much more of an adventure piece than it is a thought piece, like much sci-fi is.

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