Kino #16 Review: The Devouring Underworld
He’s the Kinetic Impulse Neoterrestrial Operative! And he’s lost his way.
Too bad illumination is a bit of a double-edged sword.
Story: Alex Paknadel
Art: Diego Galindo
Colors: Valentina Pinto
Letters: Jim Campbell
Publisher: Lion Forge
“Kino” #16 continues the necessary and delightfully uncomfortable job of exposing Meath as a very complex character. He’s more than a bit confused, and is definitely being manipulated by Spode and the neo-fascist powers that be, but the unpleasant truth of his comfort within discomfort and instability in Paknadel and Galindo’s work to date is bubbling to the surface.
Alistair Meath is a hard man to get to know. Assante immediately plunged him into a dream world, and he’s been struggling to come to grips with his memories and his reality ever since. Unfortunately for him, we’ve never seen any realized version of the superhero or the man but in that dream world, and the real world peeking out around the edges hasn’t benefited too much from his good behavior to date. We know he cares about his family, and we know that he’s loyal to his country. Other than that, it’s hard to take the measure of the man, because he hides quite a bit from himself and from his audience. And his story so far is very compelling.
What do you do when you’re not entirely sure you care for a protagonist? First, examine if the dislike is earned or intentional. In “Kino,” we’re frustrated with Meath. We want him to break free of Spode and take a stand for real superhero ideals, but the point is that it’s not that easy. Paknadel’s work creates intentional friction and discomfort, because wouldn’t it be so much easier if Meath could just blast all the bad guys into oblivion and save the day? It would, but the last time he tried he levelled a good chunk of London and got a man killed – and that was after he got said man into this nasty situation to begin with. This is the kind of realism that works, because there are nuanced consequences for Meath if he strays too far from the company line, and he currently lacks the courage and the foundation to do so. As we see in “Kino” #16, there are also real consequences for his family, too.
Galindo’s layouts are a little looser in this issue and there are a few points again where the stacking feels scattered. The effect does suit Meath’s mental state as he flounders for answers and the book’s endless juggling of its cast. “Kino” #16 reintroduces some of that superhero comic zaniness to Meath’s world, and Galindo has some nice takes on the new, uh, character designs. Pinto finds ways to add a lot of interest to the page with brighter colored backgrounds and textured panels that expand the book’s realistic palette. Costume details pop as well, and Pinto’s command of lighting adds a lot of moodiness to the laboratory scene. Campbell’s lettering is on point, as usual, and he keeps the font economical to accommodate the book’s dialogue.
Paknadel’s take on fascism is frightening because it’s here, and because the hyperbole of it feels all too real. The Western world is groaning under the weight of its own collective ego, and nasty things are worming their way out of the night and into the sun. Will Meath be able to buck the yoke, or will Queen and country win out after all? It’s hard to say.
Pick up “Kino” #16 on 5/29 wherever fine comics are sold. You’ve got two weeks to catch up if you haven’t hopped on board, so get to it.