Friday, May 9, 2014


Story/Art: Alan Davis
Inks: Mark Farmer | Colors: Gregory Wright | Letters: Pat Prentice
Assistant Editors: Marc Sumerak & Andy Schmidt | Editor: Tom Brevoort
Editor-in-Chief: Joe Quesada | President: Bill Jemas

I had become a fan of Alan Davis by the time his KILLRAVEN limited series was first published in 2002, but I did not know who or what a "Killraven" was, so I passed on it at the time. But thanks to Marvel Digital Unlimited, I finally took some time to read the six-issue limited series earlier this year. As noted, I was totally unfamiliar with the Killraven character when the series came out, but I had since learned that he debuted in Marvel's adaptaion of THE WAR OF THE WORLDS. I've still never read another comic with him, though, so I have no idea if Davis's story is a sequel, a reboot, or a reimagining -- but I can confirm that it's a very fun read.

I like post apocalyptic stories about small groups traveling the land in search of something, and that's precisely what this is. When the tale begins, it is the "not-so-distant future" and Earth is enslaved by Martians. Our main characters are Raven (a.k.a. Killraven), M'Shulla, Carmilla, Hawk, and Skull. The former four are gladiators from the Martian slave pens, while Skull, older than the rest, was one of their attendants, who essentially raised and trained them. The group quickly takes on a boy named John, and this group forms the core of the story's cast.

Davis takes the approach of having each issue of the mini-series tell its own story in service to the larger arc. The first issue features Raven's band escaping from Martian controlled New York, detonating a bomb in their wake which destroys the city. Part two introduces a female bounty hunter named Mint Julep -- a green-skinned woman genetically created by the Martians -- who kidnaps our heroes. They escape with the aid of Julep's other prisoner, a pyrokinetic named Volcana -- but Julep manages to hang onto Volcana.

Subsequent issues deal with Raven's quest to rescue Volcana as repayment for her aid in the escape. The group travels to Washington D.C., where in the shadow of the ruins of the White House, they overthrow a human warlord and liberate his people. The next issue see a guide leading Raven's band into a Martian complex, where they rescue Volcana and befriend a lovable Martian genetic experiment named Grok. Issue 5 features the Martians' attempt to recapture Raven for study, due to the fact that he is immune to their telepathic powers. And the final story finds our heroes taking the fight to the Martians.

Through it all, Davis's art is as beautiful as ever. Again, I don't know how much of this is reimagined from the original WAR OF THE WORLDS series, but whether the designs for the Martians existed before or not, Davis brings his usual flair to the work, drawing a bizarre and occasionally disturbing menagerie of Martians and genetic experiments for Raven to battle. And it wouldn't be a real Alan Davis comic without buxom ladies and skimpy costumes for both genders, so there's plenty of that to be seen as well.

The panel designs are more experimental than anything I think I've seen from Davis in the past, possibly owing to this being a world where, it seems, anything can happen. Panels are jagged and crooked for action sequences, and there are rarely any traditionally structured and guttered grids to be seen. The lettering by Pat Prentice is equally creative, with some very nicely drawn sound effects during the battles.

Early chapters, while dark as you would expect such a world to be, present a sort of swashbuckling atmosphere which I appreciated. The later parts are grimmer, but no less intriguing. Raven is the typical "hero who was trained only to kill but never wants to kill again but is forced to keep killing to protect his loved ones", and while this is a cliched concept, and Davis even takes the expected out in the end of having Raven refuse to kill his final Martian enemies, I didn't mind it much. Is it also a cliche to say that something is a cliche for a reason? Because this sort of characterization is tried and true, and I think people respond to it.

I was a bit surprised, however, to see the Martians escape rather than face justice or die by their own hands or something. They're seen through the entire story as faceless masters who invaded Earth and enslaved humanity "just because". But then, deciding after Raven spares them that perhaps there's more to the human race than the savagery they'd originally seen, they simply free all their slaves and depart to think things over. It's kind of a disappointing ending. Granted, this is but one group of Martians and there are still others entrenched on Earth -- but just the same, the last minute humanization of the enemy, while an unexpected twist, also robs the reader of any sort of satisfying demise for that enemy.

But overall, the "post-apocalyptic nomad on a quest" angle works, the story is strong, the characters are interesting, and the artwork is gorgeous. As a stand-alone limited series, this is pretty good. It even got me somewhat interested in tracking down Marvel's old WAR OF THE WORLDS material, so it certainly spoke to something in me. And apparently there's an ESSENTIAL KILLRAVEN out there, so I may just look into that...

Note: As with all my reviews, I wrote this one "cold", using only knowledge I already possessed and doing no research. However I have subsequently read a bit more about Killraven and learned that Davis's story is a reimagining. The "real" Killraven stories take place in a different future. Most of the characters are similar, but their situations are different. I was also shocked to learn that Neal Adams, of all people, drew Killraven's first appearance! Now I'm even more intrigued about the ESSENTIAL volume.

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