City of Dust: A Philip Khrome Story #2 (Radical Comics)

cityofdust-header.jpgIt’s Blade Runner meets 1984 with a touch of Fahrenheit 451 in this dystopic future where creativity and imagination are outlawed.



32 pgs. full color; $2.99

(W: Steve Niles; A: ZID)


City of Dust is set in a futuristic world reminiscent of Blade Runner, in a society which has a great deal in common with Oceania as imagined in Orwell’s 1984, with a touch of the future America of Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451. There’s lot of skyscrapers and dark alleys, people fly around with personal jetpacks, and the police have scanners to identify DNA and otherwise aid in the investigation of crimes. What residents of this future city don’t have is any sort of creativity or imagination: books have been outlawed, along with religion, because the authorities believe that such things lead to wars.

The hero, or anti-hero, of the series is Philip Khrome, a detective whose job it is to track down those who commit mind crimes, which includes reading or even telling someone else a story. This is a man born to his trade: as a child Philip turned his father in to the authorities for telling him the fable of the tortoise and the hare. Dad was sentenced to prison, so Philip was raised by the state and as a result knows both the rules and his place.

The cover to City of Dust 2. Click for a larger image.This background holds Philip in good stead when he is brought in for questioning. It seems he read a child’s alphabet book which he found under a corpse, a matter of greater interest to the state than the maimed bodies which are inexplicably piling up around the city. But he’s able to talk his way out of the charges, convincing the examiner that he’s glad he discovered the book before it influenced others. They let him go, but doubt remains as to his sincerity, and also as to whether the state really believes his explanation.

This is the second of five planned issues of City of Dust, so it will be interesting to see where the author take the story in the three remaining issues. The first two have created a recognizable future world (albeit with a strong horror element which is the cause of those maimed bodies) and raise some interesting philosophical issues, and have also left sufficient ambiguity that the story could be developed in several different directions.

City of Dust is printed in color on slick paper, and it looks great. This is a comic of relatively few words, so the art carries much of the story and there are many wordless sequences. ZID and colleagues achieve a futuristic noir feel, with a dark palette dominated with browns and greens and lots of unusual angles and shadows. The human characters are recognizable types, and their faces look similar to the results of motion-capture animation as used in the 2007 film of Beowulf. Rest assured, this approach looks much better on the page than it did in the film, providing just the right degree of stylization against the detailed and realistic backgrounds which are one of the delights of this series.

City of Dust #2 is not rated but is comparable to other comics recommended for mature audiences. There is no sexual content in this issue but it contains significant violence and horror elements which, if it were a film, would put it somewhere between PG-13 and R. | Sarah Boslaugh

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