Saturday, July 25, 2009

Titanium Rain #1 / #2 - Prestige Format Relaunch

A couple of weeks ago I wrote about a forthcoming new release that had really caught my imagination: Titanium Rain from Archaia Studio Press. I've been enthused by a combination of some great preview pages - on the Titanium Rain website, blog and the original first issue of the title of course - and the passion from creators Josh Finney and Kat Rocha as they talked about their book across a number of podcasts.

Having now had the pleasure of reading the relaunch prestige-format issue I have to say my initial enthusiasm was well founded: it's a superb read and the artwork is simply stunning.

The story is set in the year 2032 in a very different world than the one we live in today. Civil war in China has escalated - with territorial battles between the Jade Empire and the Sino Union - and the book jumps straight into the heat of one of those battles alongside the allied troops as they come under heavy fire from opposition forces, finding themselves short on both ammunition and options.

There's a real sense of chaos in these opening pages - the colour pallet is dark, the artwork gritty and the dialogue has a feeling of desperation.

Turn the page and everything changes: we're now at the Mamoru Air Base on Hainan Island, the sky is a beautiful powder blue with a blazing sun. It's here that we are introduced to the Phoenix Squadron, a multi-national group of fighter pilots. Over the pages that follow we get to learn a little about the personalities of these pilots as they discuss the conflict they find themselves involved in over a game of poker. The card game itself provides a nice opportunity to explain to the reader the various 'players' in the global conflict as well as to get a sense of the anticipation and frustration that the pilots themselves are feeling.

No sooner had the poker game finished than the base klaxon howls signalling to the pilots that they should make their way to their aircraft - Hellcats - prepare their flight systems and launch. Having meandered - deliberately I'm sure - for a few pages as the story is set out, and we get to know some of the characters, the pace of the story really picks up. There's a cinematic quality throughout this book and I can almost hear the soundtrack music kick-in and intensify at this stage.

As the Hellcats make their way to their destination we begin to learn that the pilots are 'special' - it's not giving too much away to say that the men and women of Phoenix Squadron have been technologically enhanced: they are, as the book itself tells us, 'the Sons and Daughters of Prometheus'.

On reaching the Sichuan Basin, the Hellcats are called in to provide air support for the troops below and it's at this stage that we get the clearest indication that the enemy forces are like nothing we've seen before. Having cleared a path for the ground troops to evacuate, the Hellcats themselves come under fire and the book concludes with a fantastic air battle in which we see both man and machine pushed to - and possibly beyond - their limits.

As I said earlier, this book is a superb read. The writing is exceptional, the dialogue feels genuine, there's a good mix of dialogue and narration, and the story itself is well paced. Writer Josh Finney is either a student of the military or - more likely I suspect - spent some considerable time doing his research. As detailed as the in-flight technology scenes are they never feel too much, too exclusive. The double issue prestige format works really well as it allows for a lot more story story-telling and character exploration than in a regular sized book.

The artwork is magnificent: very much to my personal taste. It's clean and clear with deep, rich colours. There's great use of colour and texture throughout giving the reader a feel for the environments - the battle scenes felt claustrophobic, uncomfortable even, the flight scenes felt warm, fresh, exhilarating. The attention to detail throughout is impressive and deserves to be highlighted - from the reflections in the pilots' visors, the heat haze over the air-strip, even the dirt and grime on the troops faces.

When I first heard about Titanium Rain I was struck not only with the look and feel of the book, and the passion of its creators, but with the originality of its concept. For my tastes there's a definite gap in the sci-fi comic-book field at the moment and I'm confident Titanium Rain can fill it.

Already a leading contender for the Escape From Tomorrow 'Book of the Year': check out Titanium Rain ... you won't be disappointed.

Titanium Rain
Published by Archaia Studio Press
Written by Josh Finney, art by Josh Finney and Kat Rocha

Titanium Rain #1/2, order code JUN09 0698
Titanium Rain #3/4, order code JUL09 0675

Titanium Rain website
Titanium Rain blog