In Review: Drone: Fatal Error #1

A highly readable book giving me all the robot action I could want.

The cover: Three drones are in the middle of a firefight, emptying their weapons at unseen foes. I’m a fan of robots, so to see a trio involved in some military action already has my interest piqued. I liked the design of the ‘bots, drawn by Randy Kintz and designed by Jesse McGibney. Having the characters too narrow in spots for a person to wear as a suit made me happy: I was recently looking for a robot action novel or comic, and didn’t want an exo-suit of any kind, as that’s been done to death of late. The coloring, by Ivan Plascencia, is good, with the cool camouflage greens on the drones and the nicely blended yellows, oranges, and reds in the devastation behind them. I saw the Red 5 Comics logo, popped this open, and based on the visuals and the publisher, I decided to give this a shot. Overall grade: B+

The story: The inside cover brings readers up to speed with what’s gone before. This was a nice inclusion as I hadn’t read any previous installments of this series, and it caught me up quickly. “The near future 200 miles off the coast of South Korea” a Chinese submarine carrying a “ready” cargo has it’s commanding officers kill the bridge crew and themselves, making their vessel crash and sink in an ocean trench. The scene then changes to Creech Air Force Base in Nevada where two drones are battling. It’s a training session for David Weaver, whose easily beaten by a soldier commanding the other robot. He’s feeling depressed since he showed up the military and has been drafted into their ranks. The soldiers have spent their lives training to command drones, and he’s a hacker that outsmarted them. “I’d hate me too if I was in their position, ” he says. “And let’s face it, they are better than me at this.” Not helping his mood is seeing Catherine “Cat” Dixon talking to a soldier. He’s obviously smitten by the technician but has done nothing to state his intentions to her. His pining is ended when he, and the rest of the drone operators, are summoned to a briefing session about the sub. They’re being sent in to man modified reaper drones to check the sub’s reactor for damage. Things don’t go as planned. This is a very entertaining story by Scott Chitwood. Even without the summary on the inside cover, his dialogue had me in the thick of things. David is a very likable character, talented but an outsider in a military setting. He’s trying to fit in, but no one is going to allow him to upstage them again. When the action goes underwater things get really neat and complicated. I like how the drones are in chaos, yet the controllers are safe on the ship above them…at least, initially. The final two pages show how the stakes have been upped considerably and ends with a terrific cliffhanger. I’m on board for more of this story. Overall grade: A

The art: Randy Kintz uses a very thin line in his work. I’m liking what I’m seeing. His style is very modern when illustrating technology, and there’s a lot of that in this book, but when he draws humans his work resembles the classic black and white work of illustrators from the 1970s comic magazines published by Harris. It’s very European-retro, and I like it. This style is apparent on the opening two pages aboard the submarine when the commanders kill others and themselves. I really like the second panel on the second page; it’s very fine lined, it’s very stylized, and it captures the intensity of the action very well. This look returns when David and Mark are introduced and Cat appears. It’s really slick and I like it. The drone sequences are also really nice. Their arrival underwater is wonderfully cinematic and their discovery of the sub rivals anything Cameron did in The Abyss. Capturing action with a robot would be a difficult prospect regardless of the setting, but to have the action occur underwater demands the artist understand the limitations the environment would present on the mechanical characters. Kintz hits his spot on. When things go wrong, I completely believed the underwater danger and how it’s hampering their escape. As pleased as I was with those scenes, the final page leaves me giddy with anticipation. I want more. Overall grade: A

The colors: Stunning work from Ivan Plascencia on every page of this book. There’s some subtle lighting in the first panel showing sunlight fall down upon the sub. The interiors of the sub are nicely lit, with the leads in colors that are enhanced by computer screens: neat use of greens and violets. I like how David was wearing a bright red shirt to make him stand out against everyone else in Creech. When the action goes underwater, green dominates, to bring an alien and eerie effect to this environment. Plascencia is using a splatter effect on some pages, such as on Page 9, with brown. It makes the objects look weathered and, therefore, more real. I like how the drones’ speak is also colored green, making them further separated from humanity. Every page has got something wonderful going on with colors. Overall grade: A+

The letters: Scene setting, dialogue sounds, a computer notification of a game’s end, drones’ speak, and a closing “To Be Continued!” are all crafted by Troy Peteri. I’ve never seen the font that Peteri uses for the scene settings, and it’s a delight using the rarest of the rare in a comic–lower case letters! I also like how the drones’ dialogue is in italics, setting it apart from normal dialogue, as it should be. Peteri is hitting all the right marks. Overall grade: A

The final line: A highly readable book giving me all the robot action I could want. Drone: Fatal Error is worth tracking down. Overall grade: A

Patrick Hayes was a contributor to the Comic Buyer's Guide for several years with "It's Bound to Happen!" and he's reviewed comics for TrekWeb and TrekCore. He's taught 8th graders English for 20 years and has taught high school English for five years and counting. He reads everything as often as he can, when not grading papers or looking up Star Trek, Star Wars, or Indiana Jones items online.
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