Plot: Extended war, extended metaphor.
Comments: "After half a million years, evolution hasn't gotten any easier" is the remarks that starts off this interesting new book, but is it a log line or a thesis statement? It's a little of both actually. The year is 2031, and China is embroiled in civil war that has all the major players of the world involved. The book opens with a Buddha quote and gunfire tearing apart a statue of the ancient philosopher; a none-too-subtle (but no less effective) statement about philosophy in the face of real politic.
An American unit is trapped on the roof in a Chinese city. Apparently, about the only real evolution man has achieved is in warfare as the unit is wiped out by a giant mech stomping the concrete canyons. It's an exciting and brutal opening to a war comic book with a lot more on its mind than platitudes and doing the explodo; Quoting Buddha and then symbolically and literally tearing him apart (along with everything else in proximity). The thesis statement is a grim one, but Finney is making a point. And as with any good writing, the statement is backed up with supporting evidence.
Next up is an Air Force staging area and the introduction of, what I assume, are the main characters. Alec Killian, a.k.a. Space Case, is watching a flock of crows tear apart a dead seagull. The gruesome action is captioned with a meditation on the clash of ideal existence and the cold hard evidence. When asked what he's looking at, Space Case responds "Darwinism." The book introduces the rest of the characters with a game of poker run by Capt. Piso. This scene, which takes up the majority of the first issue, is masterfully executed. Not only does it introduce the cast, but it gives each of them distinct characteristics, feeds the reader with a boatload of exposition, re-iterates the themes of the book, tweaks the whole "game as metaphor" literary device and still manages to capture the excitement of a game of poker. No easy work to pull off two of those objectives little less six. Space Case knocks cards as a glorified lottery and not on the same strategy level as Chess. He's right (in a way), but the truth is that life, like cards, is luck of the draw and how it's played. Piso's point, and he proves it. Once again, ideal vs. reality. Giving a knowing wink to Chess (an overused game-as-life metaphor if there ever was one) and taking the air out of it was a sharp move, one of many made by Finney and Rocha. I was swept up in the levels that were at play in what was ostensibly a card game. This is writing of an extraordinarily high caliber.
But I don’t want to turn you off by making Titanium Rain out to be a philosophical wankfest. The intelligence level is obviously higher than your average comic but the book doesn't shy away from excitement or action either. This is a book about (future) modern warfare, after all. The opening scene is ripe with symbolism and loaded with information, yes, but at the same time it's a harrowing firefight. At the end of the issue the pilots are put into action. The take off scene has tension and momentum for what promises to be a gripping dogfight next issue.
Another engaging element of Titanium Rain is the art, not photo-realistic but an eerie replication of reality. The faces are all taken from real people, Josh and Kat included, and it pulls the level of reality dangerously close. The card game's effectiveness is amplified by the realistic expressions on each character's face. You can feel the wheels turning in each of the character's heads along with a sense of weariness and camaraderie. It's not so much art as acting. The action sequence in the beginning benefits from the high-tech treatment also, making craftsmanship and beauty out of the carnage and chaos of the story. The jets look fantastic – shiny metal and green H.U.D glow; the world outside the cockpit and the instruments inside warp in the reflection of Space Cases' goggles. The whole book has a high-tech look and feel, appropriate for a chilly tale of war and survival. I can say with confidence that the look of Titanium Rain is distinctive from just about anything else out there.
Final Word: Finney and Rocha have crafted a stand out piece of work here. Not often does a book come along that combines such a level of intellect, tension, an amazing look and action. Maybe quoting Buddha, Darwin, and Yoda sets the bar pretty high, but Finney hits it. I came in to Titanium Rain with high expectations; I am a fan of Finney and Rocha's previous work, the criminally under-read cyberpunk thriller Utopiates, and I am not the least bit disappointed. In fact, it exceeded expectations. The real drawback is that you'll probably have to make an effort to find the book, but that can be fixed; if your comic book store isn't smart enough to carry this title (you should change that tomorrow) go to www.titaniumrain.net or www.aspcomics.com and get it there, but by all means get it.
My LINK: No Jet fighters here…yet… but still cool. "Who is Crazy Mary?"
What did you think of this book?
Have your say at the Line of Fire Forum!