By Donny Cates and Dylan Burnett
It’s hard to argue with a sci-fi book that looks you dead in your eyes, sizes you up, and says coldly, “Vampires.” You’re damn right it’s vampires, but not just any vampires; space vampires. Wait…technically, they’re still Earth Vampires. Maybe? Truth be told, that doesn’t matter because Interceptor #1 is a heavy dose of awesome that trenchantly blends post-apocalyptic tropes with irreverent political satire with science fiction frills and odd-couple buddy cop hijinks. There’s a ton going on and once it’s introduced the core conceits, it writhes with a fervent electricity of potential. Cates and Burnett craft a menagerie of familiar conventions and blend them into something all its own. Nuclear decimation, science fiction mega technology run amok, mother-effin’ vampires in space, and one very endearing little girl named Weep; Interceptor the comic is as ramped up as the titular suit of armor found therein: “excessive to the point of negligent.”
Cates has proven himself time and again as a writer who doesn’t merely deliver on a snappy premise, he instills an indefatigable level of heart into his scripts and their characters (see: The Ghost Fleet, Buzzkill, The Paybacks). The seeds of that are found here too, especially in regards to Weep whose fearlessness and sass have achieved perfect homeostasis. She’s hard not to instantly love, if for no other reason than she drives a badass light-cycle looking piece and tells vampires to go fuck themselves. For balance, Cates inserts the tough-as-nails Ripley by way of Buffy, Sergeant Doli Lehan as her more militaristic buddy cop. It’s a great start and there’s clearly a plethora of character development to mine from their relationship, but hopefully it will be based on a firm foundation of mech suit vampire killing mayhem.
Tonally, Cates’ script is juggling and interweaving a combination of genre functions. What opens steadfastly as a comedy, albeit a dark one, slowly incorporates legitimate BSG level science-fiction political gravitas only to hit you with a punchline once more just before it reveals itself further as a captivating post-apocalyptical action adventure tale. It’s certainly a lot to take in, but Cates keeps it from being jarring with sharp dialogue and the impression that he and Burnett were trying to have each page top the previous one in terms of infectious weird fun. In order to fully revel in said fun, a level of background information does need to set the stage and it comes here in the form of a self-aware recap of status quo history that does teeter a little close to “info-dump” even if its framing device is justified. Cates doesn’t let the heavier dialogue scenes (essentially, every scene on Palus) drag or clank unnecessarily and it’s clear he’s trying to balance those with as much humor as he can wedge in between the bricklaying. The real narrative motor-revving takes place on the barren future hellscape of vampire-central. Fortunately, Cates is ever mindful of showing rather than telling and he’s paired with an artist that basically turns this idea into a hallucinogenic rave of future ass kicking fury.
The first thing that’s going to hit you square in the face with Interceptor is the color palette that perfectly sets the otherworldly and spectral aura with its effervescently glowing neons. It’s a magenta, electric blue, and fluorescent green affair for sure and one that feels like a welcomed assault on the old ocular cavities especially when they intertwine themselves with the heavy blacks of Weep’s nightmare homeworld. Dylan Burnett, much like his color palette, is an unrelenting force that is clearly enthused about the subject matter. There’s an angular nature to his line and sharp heft to his figures that’s employed equally well in quiet settings as it is in action laden berserkers. There’s a sketchy nature to it, but it isn’t rough by any stretch as Burnett adds just the right amount of texture via hatching and ink spattering to enhance the world. Characters are richly expressive and exaggerated in their features and proportions to best convey motion and girth, with the close-ups being particularly animated.
Burnett definitely loves the big moments and set pieces, but paces the story smartly around them so as to never create a sense that you’re looking through visual detritus around the main event. There’s a great sense for comedic beats featuring the President and his cabinet and a keen eye for building anticipation around a reveal like the dormant Interceptor ship kicking into a gear from one splash to another on a page turn. His panels are largely traditional, but there’s some fun bits involving HUD displays from a single characters perspective that take the shape of high-tech goggles and overlays and that’s just one example of a little thing that adds up to a fully developed ambiance. Things like the ghoulishly thick lingering cloud, the aforementioned neon-drenched palette, the killer design work of future technology; it all fits and collectively equates to a unique visual identity for a book that already was delightfully unique in its excess.
Cates and Burnett have given themselves a heap of ideas and contrivances to juggle and explore, but hopefully the “getting everyone up to speed” portion is set in stone and the focus can shift firmly on developing two irresistibly captivating female leads in a richly realized setting. An aggressive salvo of an opening issue that accomplishes everything a #1 is supposed to including a tantalizing premise, rich and engaging characters, effervescently mesmerizing visuals, and the promise of an absolute planet-wide frenzy of vampiric future sci-fi war. Welcome to Earth.
Interceptor #1 will be released 12/30/2015