Science Fiction Comics, Part 5

Jurassic Strike Force 5 by Neo Edmund

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It has been quite some time since last we looked at what the world of graphic fiction had to offer fans of science fiction.  So, today we will take another look at some of the exciting stories out there that are perfect for science fiction readers.  Without further introduction, here are four more science fiction series that you will want to check out.

Jurassic Strike Force 5

First, I felt it only fair to give you readers an update on a series that I wrote about the last time we discussed science fiction comics.  Since then, the first three issues of Jurassic Strike Force 5 have been released, and I have to say, after my excitement following Jurassic Strike Force 5 #0, I have been severely disappointed with the series.  Unless I start hearing incredible things about this series, I’m going to be setting this one aside.  There are too many great science fiction comics out there!

Gantz

Gantz is an incredible manga series created by Oku Hiroya, working with the help of his studio, OKU HIROYA Works.  Set in modern Japan, Gantz follows Kei Kurono and his friend Masaru Kato, who are both killed in a subway collision in the first few pages of the series.  However, they find that life isn’t totally done with them, as they wake up in an apartment with a number of other recently deceased individuals.  An alien device, known as Gantz, has gathered them to be a part of a “game,” of sorts, in which Gantz targets dangerous aliens living on Earth for destruction, and then sends out the just dead to kill them.  If Kei and company die, then they stay dead; if they live, their wounds are healed, and Gantz rates their performances by giving them points.  If you earn enough points, then you get the chance to come back to life for good, without Gantz’s nightly terrors.

Gantz is for adult readers only, as it contains a lot of adult content, themes, and situations (as to be expected from Oku’s dark themes and the violent games of the plot), but for mature readers Gantz will be a series you won’t forget.  In Japan, the series is in its third and final story arc, but Dark Horse has only made its way into the second arc here in the US, leaving much excellent story in the future.

A.B.C. Warriors

Created by Pat Mills, and originally appearing in the long running British science fiction anthology series 2000 AD, the quirky A.B.C. Warriors features a group of robot warriors created to fight Atomic, Bacterial, and Chemical warfare (hence the title), and were a spin-off from Mills’ previous series Ro-busters, as well as some allusions from Invasion! and other Mills works set in his shared milieu.  A.B.C. Warriors features Hammerstein and a group of Dirty Dozen-style robots who live and work on the outskirts of morality, but are perfect for the dangerous missions they need to accomplish.  Generally told in very brief chapters and short stories, this futuristic saga mixes much of the Post-Vietnam Era views towards militarism with stereotypically dark and morbid British sensibilities to create a set of tales that is both fascinating to read yet best in small doses.  For fans of dark British science fiction (think Judge Dredd, to cite another 2000 AD saga), and those interested in seeing some of the lesser known work of many comics creators who went on to have big careers elsewhere (including Kevin O’Neill, Dave Gibbons, and even a short story from Alan Moore), this series will be worth checking out.

A.B.C. Warriors still appears today intermittently in 2000 AD, but for fans in the states the saga is being collected into nice books from Simon and Schuster.  The first volume, entitled The Meknificent Seven, collects the early stories of the team, while the second volume, The Black Hole, gives readers a glimpse at the first major A.B.C. Warriors storyline.

The Vault

The Vault is a brilliant little story from writer Sam Sarkar and artist Garrie Gastonny.  Originally released as a three issue miniseries from Image Comics, the entire story has recently been collected into a handsome graphic novel edition.  The Vault features a team of treasure hunters who are set on exploring a deep part of the Atlantic Ocean right off of Sable Island, called the Graveyard of the North Atlantic.  However, when the team finds deep in the bottom of the ocean is an ancient, mysterious vault.  As the scientists struggle to use their state of the art technology, as well as devices seemingly out of the future, to try and open the vault, they eventually come the realization that what they unleashed might have been better off trapped.  At times reminiscent of John W. Campbell, Jr.’s “Who Goes There?” and its film adaption as The Thing, this story balances the line between science fiction, thriller, and horror quite nicely.  While this story is the least science fictional of the lot, it does have those SF elements, and is a wonderful tale at that.  Well worth the read.

Artifacts

Top Cow Productions has been putting out some excellent work for a long time, including Witchblade, which just recently surpassed one hundred fifty issues, and The Darkness, which is nearly always brilliant.  However, Top Cow eventually came to realize that, while books such as The Darkness struggled and occasionally went out of print, Witchblade was their bread and butter, always going strong.  Yet even Witchblade couldn’t keep them afloat forever if continued as it was, because the series was a stereotype of the Image Comics explosion: brilliant art, scantily clad women, and little to no plot to speak of.  So Top Cow brought on comics veteran Ron Marz, who took the series to a whole new level.  Artifacts is, in a way, the culmination of the first major phase of Marz’s storytelling on Witchblade.  So why would Artifacts be a good place for you to get started on reading in the Top Cow Universe, when it is so clearly a major crossover storyline and the conclusion of a number of plot threads?  Because Ron Marz believes that, like any good Summer blockbuster, Artifacts should be huge, over the top, full of action and drama and dozens of characters.  But Marz also believes that, unlikely some of the major Summer company-wide crossovers from the major comics publishers, the biggest stories should also be the most accessible.  Thus, Artifacts was written with new readers in mind.  That is where this writer jumped on to the Top Cow saga, and it was a brilliant introduction to a world of magic and technology.  Fans of action thrillers loaded with interesting characters and plenty of wordly peril need look no further.

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