PROG: 94 – COLD KILL
Script: Mike Cruden
Art: Garry Leach (as Gary Leach)
Letters: Peter Knight
Plot: In a harsh cold part of the Earth a Hunter drags his bounty of slain animals towards his settlement. Aware he is surrounded by a gathering pack of wolves he manages to warn off the majority with a series of gunshots, however one of them leaps at him intent on the kill. The Hunter is wounded but, after eventually managing to slay the lupine foe, he loads his kayak for the final part of his journey. Tharg’s voice interjects to ask why we are seeing this Hunter, what is a tale of Canadian Hunters doing in the Prog?
Shock: The Hunter’s kayak arrives at his settlement, a frozen tundra with Big Ben at its centre! Mankind is in ‘the third Ice Age‘ and we have been witnessing life in London. The Hunter states ‘They Attacked me in Battersea Park. It’s a wild, lifeless place now. I won’t go there again in a hurry!’
Thoughts: A very curious Future Shock that subverts the format by directly using Tharg’s authorial voice to nudge the reader in the wrong direction before delivering an excellent switcheroo in a stunning final full-page splash. There is very little to the tale but a two page track-and-fight and then the final subverting reveal. Again Mike Cruden chooses not to burden his characters with over-detail, here we have a grizzly hunter stereotype, denoted by image and the most cursory of dialogue, whose purpose is to serve as the vehicle for the shock rather than engage the reader as a character. As with the previous Prog’s Future Shock this mean everything turns on the quality of the shock itself and Cruden has shown he understands the importance of a strong final Panel. In an era long before Hollywood could CGI-destroy famed landmarks ten-a-penny, the sight of Parliament beneath an ice flow was a fantastic kicker and Garry Leach does a first-rate job in conveying it. Leach’s art has moved up a notch since his debut in FS 28, delivering art with much greater detail (as well as more convincing head-gear). The stand-out element of his art is the degree of perspectives he uses, rarely showing two panels from the same horizontal or range, while still retaining the flow of the story with clarity and drama. He also draws one hell of a mean wolf. Cold Kill is very different fare to the traditional Future Shock, and Cruden’s decision not to invest in character is in stark contrast to the rest of the comic, but it certainly is an excellent use of three Prog pages.
Shock’d? The reveal about London is very disjointed from the rest of the tale, a problem coming from the character being so impersonal and lacking a localised narrative or dialogue that can set up the reveal. In acknowledgement of this the unusual step of having Tharg’s voice move from the traditional introductory spiel to directing the narrative mid-strip must be seen as an attempt to draw the reader back into thinking about the location to allow the ‘shock’ that it is London to work. On that level the drama of the two page fight is rather unconnected from the shock but given the beauty of the final splash page the editor and reader probably couldn’t care less.