Saturday, August 20, 2011

Chronic Review: Kult # 1!

Kult # 1 (of 4)
Dark Horse Comics
Script:     Jeremy Barlow
Pencils:   Iwan Nazif
20 pages for $3.50

Kult is not a new thing, it started out as a role playing game created by some mad Swedish bastard, Gunilla Jonsson.  I remember being instantly attracted to the tagline - "Death Is Only The Beginning"....fuck n' a right, man!

Original Kult RPG
The Kult world is a dark, dark world in the nihilistic mold of an H.P. Lovecraft.  In the Kult cosmology, people are at best an afterthought in the universe, and outside of that, a nuisance to be stomped out with impunity.  There's no humanistic "special snowflake" thinking involved, nor any conventional religious optimism of things working out for the better in the end.  For Kult, we live in a sham of world where God is dead, and everything else across the veil is pissed off and not terribly fond of us.  This is my kind of narrative landscape, folks.

I mention this for a couple of reasons.  Firstly, to give a sense of story ambiance, and secondly because a good chunk of the lucky few who might stumble upon Kult and discount it unfairly.  I think a lot of readers will pick up on the fact that there's a malevolent sham of a world looking for a new savior and say "Hey!  I've seen this before in The Invisibles and The Matrix!  What a rip!"  But actually Kult got there first, so I wouldn't penalize it for that.  Just sayin'.

Now I've got a red pill, and a blue pill...
So, back to the book at hand.  The original tagline for Millar's Nemesis was "What if Batman was a cunt?"  The tagline for this Kult series should be - "What if Neo was a cunt?"  The story is centered around Tomas Zenk, a potential replacement for the deceased almighty.  Naturally there are lots of monstrous things looking to squelch that action, and an enlightened few that are looking for a way out of the endless cycle of pain and misery.  As backdrops go, it's pretty epic.

I like the world, and I think if Dark Horse could have snagged Warren Ellis for the project, we might really have something special on our hands.  As it stands in the hands of Jeremy Barlow, there's nothing broken about it, but nothing really pops on the page, either.

The gist of the story is that Tomas Zenk is your typical "in over his head" would be savior of the world.  He's kind of a dick, and he's kind of a loser, and his job as a parole officer spins him toward an awakening to the larger Kult reality.  There's plenty of evil Cthulhian monster action to be had, and a small group of rebels who ex machina onto the scene to help out, and eventually activate the Godhood inside the man.

I don't actually consider it a mistake to make Tomas Zenk unlikeable.  The problem is that he's unexceptional.  If you're going to make him a prick, do it with some aggression and panache.  If he's going to be "The One", there ought to be something about him that draws interest, and there's nothing like that about Zenk.  He's just kind of there, being a parole officer with child custody issues.

I'm probably being unfair to Kult because I read it directly after finishing the Secret Six finale, and ahhh... that's a tough act to follow.  After you get done reading Gail Simone's characters spout off one Shakespearean gem after another, (Bane:  "I'm bound for hell, I will not enter it as a comedy") it's difficult to be impacted by an extra dimensional force that pulls a Macauley Culkin face slap and says "No--You cannot halt the machine!"  It just lays flat.  I mean, it does get more clever than that. There was a bit from the same demon a few pages earlier about tasting ashes on tongues and such.  A book like this really needs to sell the idea that its giving you dark poetry from an alien perspective to pay off, though.  For me, there are kinks to work out yet.

So here's what I'll say about Kult.  I'm not in love with any of the characters, but in spite of everything I've said so far, understand that I'm very much interested in the Kult world.  I saw enough on the page here that I'm certainly going to continue with it.  I don't know if Barlow is actually the guy for this, but then again, I don't know that he's not.  I'm going to let the thing run its course a bit before I declare that he's not up to the task 

I would say that if you're into painfully dark world views, or Lovecraft, or even just monster stories, Kult is certainly worth a test drive.

- Ryan

Yeah....what he said.

1 comment:

chibiaion said...

Cool! I'm totally smitten. Gotta make the most of those reading marathon this weekend. buy aion accounts