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Review: First six issues of 'Vortex'

Zombie Mondays


Vortex' is an eight-issue story arc for the anthology series 'Tales of Science Fiction' boasting a story conceived by iconic horror film director John Carpenter and his wife, Sandy King (Mike Sizemore is the credited writer)--who are known for such horror classics as "Halloween", "The Thing", and "Village of the Damned". The series is published by Storm King Productions.

The first six issues of the series, gradually build suspense and story layers in a manner that will please serious fans of horror -- the writers seem to be trying to upset the mind as much as the stomach (there is plentiful gore too). The story, however, may strike too many familiar notes to please some readers.

The series, which has elements of sci-fi, follows a rescue attempt by the crew of the space ship Benson. The characters visit a mining colony on an asteroid and discover that most of the inhabitants are dead. What follows is a fight against shadowy alien monsters that have killed the miners and destroyed the colony, as the crew tries to figure out how and why this happened. The resultant story combines elements of 'Alien,' "The Thing,' 'Outland,' 'Event Horizon' and just a hint of post-modern zombie lore. The writing is good if at times derivative, but given that the Carpenters have had a lot of influence over the horror genre, this story is just the sort of tale of horror that you expect from them.

A character named Dole is a bit too similar to Ian Holmes's character, Ash the android, from 'Alien' at times. There are nice touches such as literary quotes to underscore climatic plot points and dialog boxes that at times look like text boxes. The characters are all reasonably empathetic and well-constructed without distracting from the story or action (an investigator named Taylor and a slightly dimwitted soldier named Sagamander jumped out at me in particular) -- the writers are wise enough to keep it plot-driven.

The team of artists that worked on this (Dave Kennedy, Pete Kennedy and Janice Chiang) do a competent job. There is a trace of manga influence in the art, which at times contrasts with the intended grittiness. Tim Bradstreet does an excellent job with the covers.

'Vortex' is not perfect but will keep an open-minded reader's interest.

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