EDITOR's NOTE: Titanium Rain #2 will be in stores this November and is currently available for pre-order.
Plot: If God had meant for us to fly…
Comments: Conflict is the driving force of evolution. Humanity has had a slow steady climb from caves to shacks to townhomes and we’re still climbing. We’ve fought weather, animals, disease, and (more often than not) each other to get where we are. Sometimes “where we are” is in deep trouble. That’s where the world of Titanium Rain finds itself--a bloody civil war in China that threatens to plunge the whole planet into WW3, a politically fractured United States that can barely muster the will to fight, a whole world divided between whether genetic/biotech modification is the next step in human evolution or a one way ticket to damnation. Conflict may be the driving force of evolution but it sure aint an easy ride!
This is the set up of the brilliant, stunning and beautiful book from Josh Finney and Kat Rocha. Issue #2 starts off with a conversation between enhanced fighter pilots, or HACKS, Spacecase and Piso. They ship out to China the next day and the mood is reflective. Anybody who has seen a classic war movie knows this scene is de rigor--it lays out plot points and character motivations before all Hell breaks loose and the next quiet moment to reflect is when someone dies. Finney is clearly familiar with the trope and (like the poker game/exposition scene last issue) cleverly deconstructs the clichéd element while still allowing the scene to do its job. Piso tried to make a visit to the base chapel and was turned away because of the gen-mods done to him by Project Prometheus. The rejection casts a good man into doubt about his purpose. Spacecase brings up the idea of flight and how nobody claims that riding on an airplane damns your soul.
Evolution is the driving force behind Titanium Rain and flight is the main metaphor, both visual and thematic, for evolution. Aside from the fact that the story is about enhanced fighter pilots, bird imagery abounds: seagulls and crows populate multiple scenes, conversations dovetail from observations of birds, some character’s nicknames are avian or flight related. The conversation between Spacecase and Piso (and a later conversation between ‘Case and his CO) bring these themes to the forefront but never strain believability or lapse into preaching. You could hear this dialogue between two smart people in the real world debating such a topic.
Oh yeah, conflict drives Titanium Rain too. The next scene finds Spacecase where he was left in the last issue--passed out with his jet in a nosedive about to crater into urban China. Two Migs are flying around ready to do what the ground can’t. As much as Titanium Rain is about the conflict of ideas it is also about straight up conflict! ‘Case’s enhancements feed him adeneraline and snap him awake in the nick of time. The dog fight sequence is about as exciting as this medium could possibly make it blending focused narrative, widescreen shots, and a cool twist at the end that, once again, avoids the cliché but still acknowledges it sources. The peril feels genuine and exciting, dare I say breathtaking. If smart conversations about big ideas isn’t what brings you to a comic book Titanium Rain balances it out with thrilling action sequences that should satisfy anybody’s explodo-jones. This chapter takes one more contemplative moment and skewers war movie clichés again.
Chapter four spends time deepening the characters in a drinking tribute to a fallen brother, advancing the plot in both subtle and necessary ways and outlines how everybody got to where they are. It started with a single bullet. Somehow, in all of the info and action of the chapter opening Titanium Rain also finds room for a romance between ‘Case and the RAF pilot Happy, adding a bit more of an emotional layer. Flirtatious dialogue and scenarios build an engaging momentum between the two characters.
Finally if smart conversations about big ideas or gripping action sequences aren’t what bring you to a comic book, how about the art! Josh and Kat’s art is no less than stunning, almost photorealistic with the people and beautifully rendered fighter jets and settings. This book would work with almost any art, it’s that good, but the visuals that Josh and Kat produce just raise the bar to an exceptional level. The realistic look of the characters lends to subtle looks, reading a whole world of that just below the surface emotion in a single shot. Josh and Kat also play the in-joke card, people in the book are taken off of reference photos of friends and comic world people (the marines are all modeled after the comic geek speak boys). The fact that Spacecase and Happy are Josh and Kat adds a nice dimension to the love story angle for those that know them (they are married in real life). Simply put there is nothing out there that looks like this book.
Final Word: I really can’t recommend this book highly enough. Titanium Rain packs intelligence, action and exceptional production values into one beautiful package. The only drawback is that it's not in stores yet! The first double issue has been delayed (through no fault of the creators) by two months. This issue will follow a month after and the collected edition shortly after. In the conflict between singles and collected editions Archaia seems to be betting on the medium evolving in the direction of collections. Titanium Rain is worth the effort no matter what format you get it in so find it on Amazon or demand it at your comic store now. You won’t regret it.
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