Written by: Dan Abnett
Art by: INJ Culbard
Price: £12.99 (UK) $17.99 (USA)
This graphic novel reprints the following stories:
- “Skeleton Life” – (Prog 2023 – 2040)
The initial volume of Brink was one of the most striking science-fiction adventures to come out of 2000AD in recent years, fusing the future police sub-genre with a dash of Lovecraftian horror. Creators Dan Abnett and INJ Culbard quickly established a world where humanity live in sterile, compact space stations following a mass-evacuation into the stars. Crime, corruption and poverty are rife amongst these habitats and the HSD are responsible for keeping the peace in the face of overwhelming pessimism and paranoia. The first volume saw HSD agents Brinkmann and Kurtis exploring a conspiracy involving sects, murder and processed foods, with a subtle hint of the supernatural that implied something more sinister behind events.
This second chapter, “Skeleton Life” continues to develop the same themes and sees Kurtis come into contact with the mysterious symbols and sect-messaging that was present in the initial chapter, teasing a grander conspiracy at work. Now a private security consultant, Kurtis is brought to Galina Habitat – a new hab under construction – to set up a new security division but quickly finds herself exploring mysterious deaths and rumours of ghosts haunting the site. Abnett manages to construct another thrilling mystery, with just as many twists and turns as its predecessor. As with Volume One, this series is a slow-burner, and Abnett gently introduces the set-up before pulling the rug from underneath the reader and blowing things up in grand fashion.
INJ Culbard’s artwork is absolutely terrific in this series, and while the initial chapter was focused on the cramped living conditions aboard the habitats, “Skeleton Life” contrasts this by showcasing the wide-open spaces of the half-built Galina Hab. The emptiness of the environment plays into the narrative as Kurtis and the others find themselves uncomfortable to be surrounded by so much space after years growing up in confined areas. Despite this change in layout, Culbard continues to deliver a wonderfully atmospheric landscape – especially the sequence where Kurtis and Gita explore the underbelly of Galina Hab for clues.
While Culbard’s palette is primarily focused on blues and greens to illustrate the sterile interior of the habitats, he uses an electrifying pink to introduce Mariam Junot, the CEO of Junot Corp – the company behind the habitat construction. It is a bold colour choice, and helps separate the character from the others, highlighting her wealth and importance before the narrative explores her backstory and motivations. The script, and central mystery, for “Skeleton Life” is arguably stronger than the first volume of Brink and the reveals and betrayals feel much more satisfying. Abnett plays with reader’s expectations, as he did in the initial volume, to deliver some gut-punch revelations that will shock and surprise. As before, the story strikes a balance between hard sci-fi and horror fantasy, never quite revealing whether the delusions of the sect cultists has any basis in truth or not.
The series reads better in a collection than in weekly installments, mostly due to the slower pace of those initial episodes. While that more measured pace is essential for establishing the mood and atmosphere, it doesn’t always suit the episodic nature of 2000AD strips and reading the whole adventure in one sitting is much more rewarding and allows readers to see the nuances and foreshadowing in Abnett’s script. It is one of those strips that shines in the graphic novel format, and by collecting each series in these smaller volumes, 2000AD is making this series extremely accessible for a wider audience.
That said, there are some dramatic moments in the final act as Abnett and Culbard switch gears and deliver an action-led finale. As a whole, the series feels very reminiscent of Ridley Scott’s sci-fi classic Alien, emphasising the vast emptiness of space to create a tense atmosphere before descending into restrained violence and action for its climax. While Brink doesn’t have an alien threat, Abnett and Culbard manage to evoke those same feelings of horror and remoteness as our heroes attempt to fend off their enemies aboard the barren, half-finished interiors of Galina Hab. Those earlier panels from Culbard which leaked tension from each of its four corners now explode into blood-splattered action as violent stand-offs explode onto the page. It is the intimacy of the violence is what makes it all the more shocking, much like Tarantino’s work on Reservoir Dogs, and it is Brink’s “less is more” attitude is what makes it all the more appealing.
Improving upon its predecessor in almost every way, “Skeleton Life” is a riveting example of science-fiction horror, blending psychological horror with flashes of gore to deliver a story that’ll stick in the memory long after the final page closes. It does everything a sequel should do – builds upon its original premise, without losing sight of what made it great in the first place.