Friday, 12 October 2012

The Freak & Killing Time

In an unfortunate twist, my brilliant powers of planning ahead weren't so brilliant at all. This means that I am unable to write the review when I normally would. But being determined to still do them today, I am going to do them earlier than usual and try to beat the clock. 

The Freak 

I'm a little stumped on things to say about The Freak. This is probably the most basic plot I've seen in Kal Jerico so far. But I feel a need to go into detail with these reviews. I've summarised, analysed and criticised. I’ll attempt to get what I can out of this, and not fall short.
The Freak throws us into the world of pit fights on Necromunda – gladiatorial arena duels where bionically modified fighters undergo pre-arranged engagements where only one walks out alive, and all much to the joy of a large crowd of spectators. Even in our opening scene the new artist, Daniel Lapham, displays his prowess as an artist. His level of detail is nearing Karl Kopinski’s standards for Jerico, and his detail of different gangers and the scrap-heap structures of the run-down underhive are top quality. Where he does fall down, and this is only a minor criticism at that, is his faces can’t seem to remain coherent at odd angles. This is where he falls short of the Kopinski brothers’ standards. 
So bust in Kal and Scabbs. Kal shoots one of the contestants and gains the attention of the whole stadium. They've tracked a wanted man whose name is just obscured by the edge of the frame. I'm going to go right ahead and assume he’s nicknamed Skin-Face. If I’m wrong, I’ve only assumed one and a half characters. He’s got a bounty worth 500 credits, and as we’ve seen before, Kal is comfortable to go into most highly dangerous places for just that figure. I’ma go ahead and update the Bounty Board. 

1. Yolanda Catallus – 5000 credits. Knowledge that she had become a famed criminal made it likely that House Catallus would be shamed and unlikely to pay reward for her rescue.
2. Kal Jerico – 1200 credits. A price high enough to bring out the greediest wanted criminal scum out of hiding to claim the reward of, and a worthwhile trade off for bringing in Vandal Feg.
3. “Outlands Annie” – 1000 credits. Affections made it that Kal dropped his claim on her.
4. Bucket Head Jaxxon & Plate McGrew – 500 credits each. Price just worth pursuing them both to the death-trap of Raintown.
4. “Skin-Face” – 500 credits. A pit slave – wanted alive.
6. Van Saar Juve – 400 credits. Fee for rescue from guilder custody.
7. Oleg Kaspo – 300 credits. One of the more dangerous breed of escaped pit slaves.
8. Van Saar Juve – 200 credits. Held up a gambling den by himself.
9. Raiff Fortuna – 100 credits. A half-bounty; wanted for murder, robbery, torture and non-payment of guild levies.
10. Escaped pit slaves – 80 credits.

 It doesn't seem particularly off to assume that most bounties are on pit slaves at this stage. I mean the stats above speak for themselves. The owner of the arena runs out, furious about the state of nullification and upheaval that Kal’s little stunt has pulled. All about the arena gangers are pulling guns, we even get a glimpse at a Cawdor ganger. To save his bacon, Kal makes a deal: should he beat one of the arena’s fighters he goes free with his prisoner, should he lose, he pays the up the total flux of lost bets.

So without any mucking about the arena’s best fighter is brought out – The Freak, who bares heavy vibes of Bane and a menacing silence and bondage-heavy look.  Scabbs is ordered off to collect bets, while Kal is seemingly beat senseless over the next couple of pages. Finally, as the bets are truly against him, he reveals his bluff and knocks The Freak senseless. As the spectators see red, firing their guns into the air in outright anger and taking pursuit, Kal collects and plans his escape.
Here’s where I have a few issues. Firstly, I can’t decide whether the entire stadium pulling guns in redneck fashion sits well with me. This is the lawless underhive, and we've just come off the tail of full-out war. Then again, are the majority of spectators, gangers? I’d assume that many underhivers are just the oppressed working class of Hive Primus. Secondly, of all the weird face angles why is Kal drawn like Dolph Lundgren at the end?

I’ve seen him drawn like Tom Hardy, Brad Pitt and the above named by now. I think the best rendition of how I imagine Kal to look is done by a bloke using the handle of The Redeemer (link here). Vocally, I really can’t imagine Kal being voiced by Lundgren. Kal is suave and well-spoken, Dolph is not. I suppose maybe Tom Hardy could pull off a good Kal Jerico, maybe.
I’ve been playing an old 2D classic, Robin Hood: The Legend of Sherwood. It’s cheesy but all sorts of fun! The person voicing Robin makes me think Kal Jerico. I suppose he’d really be my choice. It’s a pity I can’t put a name to him. None of the voice cast is on IMDb, and I’m on a schedule.
The Freak receives 6.5 out of 10. It’s a tad a reminder of Doomsday. The Freak himself works better as a brute-force villain than Vandal Feg. He’s just really intimidating the moment you set eyes on him, and he’s bigger too! The shortcomings of the story are the silliness in some places. Mind you, it’s still enjoyable.

Killing Time 

This episode starts off not quite there, reminding me more of 70’s fantasy than Kal Jerico. Kal has been winning games all night. The small ensemble of gamblers accuses him of cheating. Rather than putting a reason this, they double-cross him and attempt to rob him at blade-point. I always love seeing what details have been crammed into these frames (not as in squeezing in the action mind). The opening page is usually a good bet that you’ll find some, and Killing Time has what may be as many as three of the bounty hunters that help Kal out back in Licenced to Kill.
Before the opening has a chance to work its way into the plot, the floor shakes and a chrono-gladiator the size of an elephant comes crashing through the Sump Hole’s wall! The bullish killing machine is after Kal Jerico and won’t rest until he’s dead. Kal and Scabbs realise the danger they’re in, and make their escape.

Now, Paul Davidson is the new blood here. His detail-work is great, but his motion is off. I suspect he’s trying to copy some of Wayne Reynold’s artistic style. The black on white is pulled of agreeably, but for some reason he decided to go with the hovering run Reynolds favours. But it just doesn't work in the way Reynolds does it. It just makes the frame-to-frame flow disjointedly. Therefore, I actually rate him as being slightly less competent than Reynolds when it comes to movement. However, he’s also of pulling off better detail than Reynolds is. So they’re on the same level, but for different reasons.
As Kal and Scabbs try to outrun the hulking monstrosity we cut out to a few behind the scenes characters monitoring the chase. The muscled and bionic-heavy individual inquisitively asks the shadow-bathed robed individual of the creature’s designation. Here by means of exposition we learn he is a chrono-gladiator, and that this designation means that he’s implanted with a pre-set self destruct program. The timer can only be extended by killing. More importantly, this is for the gathered duo a fitting test for Kal. Back to Kal and Scabbs...

For the second time in two episodes Kal tells Scabbs to get away as he’s the only one the tech-monster wants. I think some of the magnitude of the scale of the situation is displayed when Scabbs immediately scarpers. Kal’s immediate reaction is to try and call him back. Scabbs is out of earshot, and Kal’s laspistols aren't doing anything to the chrono-gladiator. In a last-ditch effort and one hell of a climactic scene kal dashes to a nearby power conduit, he lulls in the beast and then takes cover. Lightning wracks the gladiator and blasts him into the extremities of oblivion. Of three servo-skulls tailing the conflict, only one hasn't been removed from the conflict by stray blasts. It flies in for a close-up on Kal, and the cornered ‘hunter makes an ultimatum to his onlookers, showing he’s clearly not to be messed with. He guns down the final skull with a face mapped of pure anger.

Finally we cut back to the monitoring group. The obscured figure is revealed – a female inquisitor. Her doubtful companion mulls over the possibility that Kal may be as effective as she had speculated. The inquisitor asks that Kal be captured and brought to her, and then it is revealed to us. Look away now to avoid spoilers: “He is family, after all”.

The strengths of this episode come out right as Kal is put in the grinder. It starts off on the usual note, but by the end it’s a whole lot more than I’d bargained for. Killing Time rightly deserves 8 out of 10. It was almost as good as Nemo, but I felt that some of the cheesiness held it back a little. 

Okay, up next we have the massive Above & Beyond saga. If each part is a chapter, it’s a short story about the length of Starship Troopers. To get through the nine parts efficiently, I’ll be doing three reviews, each containing three chapters. Given my recent laxity, I need to actually read them first. Killing Time has me excited. You’ll hear from me soon. 


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