20th May2019

‘To The Death #1′ Review

by Dean Fuller

Written by Simon Furman | Art by Geoff Senior | Published by FBF Productions

to-the-death-1-cover

Simon Furman and Geoff Senior are almost comic book royalty. Sure, they have extensive CV’s in areas such as scripting, screenwriting and advertising art, but they always come back to comic books. For love, I would wager, rather than for the financial reward. As fun as it is to work on other people’s properties, and both have done a lot of work on properties like Transformers, Dr Who, Robotech and Judge Dredd, nothing beats creating your own sandbox and playing in that. Furman and Senior have sort of done this in the past, co-creating Dragon’s Claws and the fabulous Death’s Head for Marvel. Dragon’s Claws is in many ways a spiritual forerunner of To The Death, with ideas and themes carried forward from there.

To The Death began life as a series of web comics a few years back, something I must confess to having missed. That’s a shame I now know, as Geoff Senior’s art on a big computer screen is pretty incredible. It still looks great on the printed page of course, but bigger is always better, right? So for those that came in late to this world, like myself, To The Death is a 10 issue maxi-series set on a very violent, very dark future Earth, and follows Aleksy Dryagin, a war veteran and Pacifier fighting for the mega corporations that run everything. Not a hero in the classic sense, he is as close to a good guy as this time and place has. He has dragged his way up from the bottom, an orphan from a young age surviving on the streets before being recruited into the Pacifiers and swiftly climbing the ranks. It’s a tough life, though, and the life expectancy of an average Pacifier is just 2 years.

In the first few pages of the first issue, we see why, as we are dropped into the middle of an off world war, and see Dryagin and his fellow soldiers engaged in a brutal, vicious battle against alien creatures. This is also an excuse to get Geoff Senior going at full speed early, as he can unleash his visual storytelling chops early. Senior seems to really portraying the frenzied action, the violence, blood and gore, and boy does he do it well. His work is in the same vein as a more restrained Simon Bisley, or Jock, and has a crackling energy to it. Those first half dozen pages are a real treat for the eyes. Furman himself is a master of this kind of tale, and although he lets the art do the talking on several pages, his pacing is impeccable, and he still manages to work in introductions to the team along the way, as well as the fact the Pacifiers are not really good guys. They go where they are told to, and do what they are told to. That’s enough for most, but not Dryagin.

Dryagin is one of these dangerous people who like to think for themselves, and what he finds himself thinking is very much at odds with the ruling Tri-Corp government. That is dangerous enough of course, but if kept to himself not so bad. What Tri-Corp do not like, or the Triumvirate in charge of it, is that Dryagin is a survivor. Tri-Corp like a world of expendable resources, everything and everyone is expendable. Dryagin not only survives loner than they like, he is becoming a hero to the masses back home who watch these exploits, where killing to obtain resources is rebranded as suppressing rebellious elements.

Alek himself realises, as the ship nears Earth, that something this times feels a little off. We squeeze in a little insight into his family life, his wife Lena and son Leo who he barely sees as he fights these off-world campaigns. He does it for them, but his almost constant absences are making him seems a stranger to his wife, who’s only ongoing connection to him is seeing him slaughter thousands on campaign. By issue’s end, his uneasiness is justified. Firstly a failed assault on their ship in space, followed by shadows of things to come next time round. Alek’s life, and that of his family, is about to change big time.

A hugely, enjoyable slice of futuristic sci-fi, which although it doesn’t reinvent the wheel still manages to add enough new wrinkles and depth to feel fresh and new. The set up and characters are all interesting, the art by Geoff Senior is superb, and the story promises an epic journey. Furman’s script launches the ball, and Senior’s art hits that home run.

This will definitely be a book to watch.

****½  4.5/5

To The Death #1 is set for release on June 19th but you can grab a pre-release copy (and the prequel Forged By Fire) directly from Simon Furman and Geoff Senior at this weekends MCM Comic Con London – on the Get My Comics stand (Stand No. N330)

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