Kingdom: Aux Drift is the third volume of the Kingdom collection and a brutal action-packed post-apocalyptic tale, almost like Mad Max but with a sci-fi twist. The volume contains two stories, both of which follow Gene the Hackman – a genetically modified dog soldier created to protect the masters and hunt down the scourge that is ‘Them. “Them” being an almost never-ending swarm of giant bugs that destroy everything in their path. The masters are the humans of earth who have cryogenically frozen themselves until the scourge has been destroyed and earth is once again safe for the human race.
The story’s writing is done in a way that it’s told in the same way that Gene and his pack speak throughout the comic, giving the sense that it’s a story being told to us like a war story, a tale handed down from pack to pack, or a folktale about the heroics of Gene. Our main dogman Gene is the alpha male of his pack, a tough group of warriors who don’t hold back anything in the fight against Them. When a character questions Genes choice of fighting alone when he is clearly outnumbered at the beginning of the comic, he quickly responds by breaking onto the scene with weapons drawn, ready for some scrapping. Gene and his pack are clearly able to deal with ‘Them’ without any problems – they squish them like the bugs that they are. It’s soon discovered however that these bugs aren’t as simple as Gene’s experience has led him to believe and soon enough Gene is shown that the bugs are far more strategic than he ever thought possible.
It may be easy to think that Gene is just another overpowered character that can deal with any problem caused by ‘Them’’ – and to a point you would be correct. Gene is definitely born for war, a skilled fighter and brilliant strategist. He has no problem coming up with a plan to destroy the enemy whenever they meet. Gene has the experience and was born for the job after all. However, it becomes apparent that even with his brilliant abilities, “Them” are constantly evolving. This evolutionary response by the bugs has made the fights against all the more difficult as it progresses, changing what would have been easy for Gene to accomplish to a fight that almost seems hopeless.
Gene thought he had seen mostly everything about “Them”; there were new species popping up wherever he went but they had no strategy, no leadership. By the time we reach the second story in the comic where Gene reaches Kingdom, we get the feeling that it’s just going to be another comic about a super overpowered main character. At this point he has taken beatings, even survived a close proximity explosion that he manages to escape with no permanent injuries. It’s in the second story where we realise Gene is far from invincible, “Them” are more powerful than what we and Gene have been shown up to this point. The “Them” seen up until now could be considered a starter and now Gene is faced with the main meal, the second step in their evolution, a king and the hive of “Them” The king doesn’t just employ strategy like Gene but easily command gigantic armies with no effort at all.
Considering Gene’s whole existence is to know about and destroy “Them” of all kinds, Gene’s genuine surprise that something like this could exist feels like a nice touch to the character. We see that Gene will never know everything about his enemy, yet his bravery and ferocity means he will never hold back even if the odds are stacked against him and I love his character for that. The biggest threat in the stories aren’t “Them”, rather its evolution itself. Imagine having to fight an enemy that can evolve immediately to survive a threat to its species. A terrifying enemy to be sure and one that may be impossible to defeat. The writing does an excellent job at conveying Genes worry that they are developing leadership and we see how important it is for him that this cannot be allowed to exist within his enemy’s ranks. We are finally shown – despite Gene and his packs battle skills – there is always going to be a cost to pay during war, that price being some of his pack. We see that as we near the end of the second story “Them” are almost on equal footing with Gene’s pack. Yet that’s not all, after encountering some of the masters who live in a space station orbiting the earth, we are shown that “Them” have not evolved to fight Gene’s kind and the humans rather they see that war as already over and they have won. “Them” consider Gene and the human masters as insects below their feet which gene takes a rather sharp response to.
Throughout the stories we seen tons of action scenes and battles; Kingdom: Aux Drift is full of thrills in that regard. I was excited to see each swipe and tear in a battle, excited by every strategy that would win the fight for Gene and his pack and surprised when a member of the pack would fall. The combination of the well-written unique dialogue and the artwork that conveys the action so well made for excellent reading. It was easy to get the sense of how easy or hopeless a battle is for Gene and his pack, to lose a single member feels like a heavy loss that couldn’t have been prevented, an issue that Gene appears to know all too well. It lets us know that they aren’t overpowered, they can be killed and they can be lost. I’ll be excited to see where this story takes us, Gene has discovered the cause of the evolution. The cause of which I’ll avoid spoiling so I don’t tick off the readers of this review. I’d recommend giving this comic a read and I guarantee you’ll thoroughly enjoy this comic yourself! All I can say is, it’ll be exciting to see how he deals with the problems he and his pack are about to face.
Kingdom: Aux Drift has excellent artwork throughout, a mix of sci-fi meets Mad Max style characters, its style overflowing with energy. The art was easy to get into, each scene is clear and well-presented throughout. The layout of the art and panels are done in a way that I can only compare them to fight scenes in an action movie, each shot short and quick as each movement is carried out during the heat of Gene’s battles. The art combined with the writing give a great sense of the energy that can only be enjoyed from action comics like this, it adds a lot of flair to every scene and quickly becomes a page turner.