Art by Adam Burn
Published by Vanquish Interactive – £2.55
Far beneath the surface of the Earth, Doctor John Santilli struggles to understand an alien artefact. Far above the surface, an asteroid plummets down the planet’s gravity well, smashing through the automated defences. In the middle, two hapless beat cops, Forrester and Goldstein find their growing relationship is the least of their problems…
Peter Cooper’s script would feel at home in 2000AD or a Humanoids Press graphic novel, the sort of sprawling, epic science fiction that everyone says they want but rarely pays any attention to. Telikos Protocol demands attention from the start, Cooper neatly dropping the reader into the action and putting them in lockstep with the characters. Something incredible is happening, Santilli may be the only man on Earth who can understand it but every other character, and the readers, can feel the atmosphere grow tense even without Santilli’s explanation.
The Forrester and Goldstein plot is a neat counterpoint to this. Where Santilli’s plot is cosmic significance and big science, the two beat cops argue about lunch, a colleague neither of them like and whether or not they should have children. The romance between the two is well-rounded and dialogue-driven, their clear love for one another shown through actions and comfort rather than declarations, and it’s really rather sweet. It also neatly serves to heighten the jeopardy when they find themselves in the wrong place at the wrong time, looking for Santilli as something impossible happens outside the sealed city they live in.
Cooper’s script is idea heavy in the extreme but he never loses sight of his characters and is confident enough to let major world elements like the partially subterranean cities come out through dialogue rather than exposition. The end result is a world that feels complex, nuanced and real.
Adam Burn’s art manages to not only portray this vast, rich world but also capture the small character beats essential to the story. Burn’s digital art is frequently astonishing, especially on the reveals for both the asteroid defence system and Santilli’s artefact and it never drops below impressive. It’s easy for digital art to feel flat and static but that’s not the case here. Burn’s characters are all grimy, scruffy, lived in and the colossal structures Cooper gives him to depict all feel consistent and real. If anything, Burn’s art is a little too fluid in places, with the action beats on one page getting lost in the panel layout. It’s a minor quibble though and one I’m sure will iron out in future issues.
The Telikos Protocol ’s first issue is as strong a debut as you’ll get. Balancing Bay-esque levels of spectacle with a future world that resembles Masumune Shirow’s work but still feels as lived in as Rick Deckard’s apartment, this is a hell of a debut. Make sure you check it out.
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