Brink: Book One

Written by: Dan Abnett
Art by: INJ Culbard
ISBN: 978-1-78108-550-9
Price: £12.99 (UK) $17.99 (USA)

This Graphic Novel reprints the following stories:

  • Brink” – (Prog 1978 – 1992)

Long after the Earth’s resources have been used up, humanity exists in a series of space station habitats known collectively as the Brink. Cramped, confined and living in filth, the remaining population live out their lives under the thumb of big corporations whilst a sinister underbelly of religious sects run rife in the streets proclaiming the end of times. Whilst investigating a gang-related murder, HSD agents Brinkmann and Kurtis discover a conspiracy at the very heart of the Brink that threatens to destroy them all.

The immediate thing that struck me when reading Brink was how fully realised its world was, and how quickly Dan Abnett and INJ Culbard immersed you into their world. In some ways it reminds me of a dystopian version of Wall-E, except humans have become obese and lazy but are instead drugged-out and suffering from all manner of mental ailments. There are lots of echoes of famous sci-fi adventures littered about the script – the processed food and drugs pumped out into the populace feels reminiscent of Soylent Green, while the degradation of the Brink space station and the bevy of neon lights evokes memories of Blade Runner. However, Brink has its own distinct voice, focusing on the procedural investigation at the heart of its story to create a wonderful “sci-fi noir” tone.

INJ Culbard’s artwork is truly astonishing, and plays a major role in the world-building. Each panel captures the vapid, empty feel of the habitats as humans strive to survive beyond their natural extinction. There’s a grubby, nasty feel to the interior of the Brink which Culbard manages to bring to life with ease, thanks to the sickly neon lighting and the scrawled graffiti on the walls, which ends up being a vital element to the tale. The location of the Brink is just as important a character to the series as Brinkmann and Kurtis are, and Culbard’s wonderful artwork ensures it remains a presence throughout the entire adventure. One particular highlight is midway through the adventure where Kurtis finds herself trapped in the venting systems – Culbard conveys that sense of claustrophobia and darkness expertly, and it comes as no surprise that the front cover to this collection is a scene from that iconic sequence.

Brink is quite unlike anything Dan Abnett has written for 2000AD before. Unlike other series such as Sinister Dexter, Kingdom and Grey Area, there isn’t an overt sense of playfulness or “pun names” underpinning the narrative. I don’t mean to belittle his other works, but it seems like there is a greater sense of maturity about this series and the themes it explores. While it does have some moments of levity, it doesn’t descend into farce and whenever violence is seen in the series, it is depicted as very real and minimalistic compared to the more frenetic, action-packed sequences seen in his other series. There is a sequence half-way through the series which is so utterly shocking that it left me open-mouthed after turning the page. It is a major turning point for the series, and is a brilliant example of Abnett’s more mature storytelling and his grounded approach.

Brink’s slow-paced narrative works much better in collected format than it did in its original weekly installments, and I noticed a lot more connections and foreshadowing upon reading it in one go. While this chapter of the series has a definitive end, it leaves plenty of unanswered questions for future releases. I can quite honestly say that have no idea where Abnett intends to take the series going forward, which is a wonderful feeling to have in an era where spoilers are rife and there’s often a sense of predictability in storytelling. Abnett teases plenty of explanations behind the seemingly supernatural elements of the series, and leaves the reader with enough room to conjure up their own theories about what is truth and what is mass hysteria.

Tense, claustrophobic and utterly brilliant, I found myself in awe at how cinematic this series is. Brink is easily one of the best strips to debut in 2000AD in recent years, and it will no doubt be recognised as a modern classic in the future. Dan Abnett has been a contributor to 2000AD for decades, and while Sinister Dexter has endured long-lasting success in the magazine, I think it might be Brink that becomes the series his name is forever associated with. After his simply jaw-dropping visuals in Brass Sun, INJ Culbard proves himself to be one of the most imaginative world-builders working in comics today, conjuring up the vibrant environment of the Brink and bringing Abnett’s script to life as only a master in storytelling can. Yet another example of 2000AD’s current renaissance in quality, Brink is one of the most striking science-fiction adventures I’ve read in years and is vital reading for fans of the genre.

Score – ★★★★ ½

Brink: Book One is available in print and digital formats from Amazon and 2000AD’s Webshop.

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