Cyberpunk has been in something of a resurgence lately: Hollywood gave us Blade Runner 2049, Netflix Altered Carbon, and CD Projekt’s upcoming Cyberpunk 2077 is set to continue the trend. I for one, could not be more pleased. There is something about the neon-grime of the cyberpunk setting that is instantly iconic, and Dave Cook & Craig Paton’s Killtopia definitely gets that. Like many cyberpunk greats before it, the setting is a sprawling mega-city in dystopic Japan. Plagued by rogue mechas and a deadly nano-plague “life officially sucks”, mech-busting bounty hunters – called wreckers – compete in a fight-to-the-death tournament in the wreckage of district coined Killtopia, and the metro looks like a space-ship that insults you over the intercom.
The main character is Shinji Kamiya, a rookie wrecker forced to brave the deadly jungle of Killtopia for salvage, selling scavenged tech to pay for his sister’s medication, after she is infected by the nano-plague known as the Rot. Wielding nothing but a low-tech rifle and trusty baseball bat, Shinji is endearingly out of his depth in world of suped-up killers and powerful Yakuza gangs that, as the plot rapidly progresses, increasingly have it out for him. There is, for certain, a lot of fun to be had here. Craig and Paton employ a preposterous creativity, where one wrecker’s weapon of choice is a machine gun mashed with a boom box that delivers sonic explosions, and the Yakuza are glammed up with purple suits, swords and cat masks. Yet still they manage to retain the gritty brutality and moral quandary that defines the cyberpunk genre.
Perhaps one of the biggest draws of Killtopia is Craig Paton’s extremely awesome illustrations. Each page is a stylised spread of intense colour where the blood is hot pink, the city switching through a spectrum of blues, greens, oranges and purples like a flashing neon sign. The violence is as gorgeous as it gory, but never feels overdone or gratuitous, but, rather much like the art style, lends itself perfectly to the story’s outrageous and adrenaline-fuelled setting.
But what I like most about Killtopia is the way it feels like cyberpunk done for the current age. The denizens of the plague and poverty infested lower wards are described as “Generation Fucked”, Shinji wears vegan-j-grime, and Killtopia’s “Wreck-Fest X”, where spectators clamour for merch from their favourite wreckers and cosplay orgies are commonplace, feels like geek culture of today with an injection of crazy. It’s at once an absurd but believable vision of the future that I was able to buy into from the start, in a world that feels developed and alive. An impressive new entry into the cyberpunk genre, for certain Killtopia is one to keep tabs on, and with the graphic novel only in its first volume, Cook and Paton leave us with the exciting promise of more.
Killtopia Volume 1 is out now from BHP Comics
(9781910775172, p/b, £8.99)