Review – Khaal #1 (Titan Comics)

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Publisher: Titan Comics
Writer: Stephane Louis
Artist: Valentin Sécher
Release Date: 11th January 2017

The Empyreon, an ancient prison ship, floats alone in space somewhere in a galaxy completely and utterly decimated by a brutal war. Within its walls,  three races vie for supremacy, clamouring for resources and power as brutal human tyrant Khaal rules with an iron fist.  This new series from Titan Comics is based around the conflicts, uneasy alliances and betrayals which ensue as the other races plot and scheme to try and usurp this violent leader.  It’s Game of Thrones in space, essentially, and if that doesn’t grab you right from the get-go, then I’m afraid there’s not much else I can do for you.

This first issue sees writer Stephane Louis establishing the status quo on board the Empyreon and introducing us to some of the key players.    Yes, the story could be accused of being a little derivative at times, but Louis does a commendable job of throwing in several interesting wrinkles to try and keep things fresh, such as the fact that every bit of machinery on the prison ship requires a member of all three races to operate, preventing any all-out genocides from taking place.  The titular Khaal is also a truly fascinating creation;  a seemingly unstoppable warrior at first glance, but with a lot of secrets and insecurities of his own hidden just beneath the surface.  That said, aside from Khaal himself, the character development here is fairly minimal, with Louis clearly favouring the broader story over the individual players – for the time being, at least.

Valentin Secher’s artwork is a thing of beauty throughout, with a wonderful painted style that really helps to inject the script with the gravitas it deserves.  His colours are also masterful, perhaps even more impressive than the artwork itself, infusing this first issue with a glossy feel that almost appears photo-realistic at times.  There’s also a definite similarity to Simon Bisley’s work on Slaine here, particularly during the action sequences, which I’m sure you’ll agree is high praise indeed.  This is a great looking book, no doubt about it, and with fewer and fewer titles adopting a style like this, there’s even more opportunity for Khaal to make its mark based on its truly unique aesthetic.

Overall then, while the bloated world of comic book science fiction is a tough nut to crack, there are just enough positives in this first issue to suggest that Khaal may very well do just that.  The story structure is strong and the artwork is luscious, and while there’s always a risk that these kind of titles can crumble under the weight of their initial premise, this is definitely a series to keep an eye on as it develops.

Rating: 3.5/5.

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ceejThe writer of this piece was: Craig Neilson-Adams (aka Ceej)
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