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Fanboy of Fear Chris Gage Review by
Chris Gage
KILLRAVEN 1 (of 6)
Writer/Artist: Alan Davis
Marvel Comics

H. G. Wells' Martians might just be the hottest characters in comics right now. The invertebrate alien invaders from Wells' classic novel THE WAR OF THE WORLDS are already raising all kinds of hell in THE LEAGUE OF EXTRAORDINARY GENTLEMEN VOLUME TWO. Now Marvel Comics gives us the mini-series KILLRAVEN, which shows us an Earth that was conquered by the Martians long ago, a world in which mankind's only hope is the escaped gladiator Killraven and his band of Freemen.

KILLRAVEN first appeared almost thirty years ago, in the 18th issue of Marvel's try-out book AMAZING ADVENTURES. The premise was an interesting one. The Martian invaders from H. G. Wells' novel return to earth some 100 years after their first invasion, having developed an immunity to Earth's diseases, and conquer the planet. Humanity is either destroyed or enslaved. Some people become traitors to their race, hunting down other humans at the Martians' whim; others are forced to fight for their captors amusement in gladiatorial arenas. One of these gladiators is Killraven, who has been trained in battle from the time he was a boy. Killraven breaks free of his chains, and leads a band of fellow ex-slaves across the twisted, ruined landscape of Earth, fighting the Martians any way he can and striving for the day when humanity will once again be free.

Although the concept was great, the series itself suffered from the start from a lack of focus. The first issue was drawn partly by Neal Adams and partly by Howard Chaykin. Subsequent artists usually managed to stick around for an entire issue, but not much more than that, and the writers didn't fare much better. Finally, the creative carousel ended when Don McGregor took over the writing chores, and was joined soon after by P. Craig Russell. With their combined talents, and the freedom that comes with working on a low-selling book that could be cancelled at any moment, the two of them produced a ground-breaking series that explored philosophy, madness, love, violence, and the nature of freedom. Eventually the book came to an end, although McGregor and Russell wrapped up some plot threads in a Killraven graphic novel in the early '80's. Apart from a nice one-shot by Joseph Michael Linsner a couple years back, KILLRAVEN hasn't appeared much since then, until now, under the guiding hand of Alan Davis.

Alan Davis has long been an A-list artist, and, in books like JLA: THE NAIL, has proven he's a pretty decent writer as well. He wears both hats in this new KILLRAVEN series, a collaboration with his longtime inker, Mark Farmer.

Not surprisingly, the art is very good, as fans have come to expect from Davis. The Martian tripods have a nice fluid, otherworldly quality. Killraven and his comrades - M'Shulla, Carmilla, Old Skull and the rest, have taken on the heroic, larger than life air of Davis' heroes, but are still easily recognizable to old readers used to the more lithe Russell versions. And I have to give Davis major props for not trying to mount an ill- advised "update" of their costumes. The classic '70's outfits are here in all their glory, from Killraven's flared boots to M'Shulla's ponytail Afro. "Hey, if it ain't broke!"

As for the story, well, it suffers a bit from the necessary evil of having to reintroduce today's readers to characters and a world that have been largely absent from the racks for a couple decades now. Issue #1 sports a pretty ordinary tale of a young boy and his mother who have ventured out of their underground bunker to forage for food in a ruined New York, only to run afoul of the Martians. Killraven and his band intervene, and there is much kicking of Martian ass, while we learn the history of how things got this way. Readers familiar with the old series will probably be a bit bored, but the last page promises more exciting developments next issue, as well as the return of a classic antagonist from the previous series. And Davis does get some nice character bits in, as when Killraven and friends lay eyes on an old man for the first time (life expectancy is downright medieval under Martian rule) and think his wrinkled skin is the sign of some horrible disease. So, while I wasn't blown away, I'm interested enough to stick around for the ride and see where we're going.

I'll give the first issue of KILLRAVEN three Rabid Fanboys, with the potential for more as Davis leaves the backstory behind and blazes new trails in future issues.

Review copyright 2002 by E.C.McMullen Jr.

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