Review: Rob Arnold’s “Replicator” Issue 3 Drops from Down Under

With shipping delays from Down Under, the third installment of Rob Arnold’s action-packed Replicator series has finally landed in US backers’ hands. I received my perks weeks ago, packaged in the Aussie version of a Gemini mailer and sealed with Arnold’s trademark, black wax embossed logo with a metallic skull. Being new to the series, I backed the featured catch-up tier on IndieGoGo. Some story spoilers follow!

Lovingly sealed with a skull – Oi!

Replicator is set ten years after the release of the Red Death, a potent bioweapon that kills millions and throws England into chaos. A military contracting firm called Blackgate sets up a walled “Sanctuary” for the wealthy and those with exploitable talents. The walls keep the virus out, but does the name Blackgate (reminiscent of DC’s fictional prison, or perhaps the old London Newgate Prison) hint they are also meant to keep the inhabitants in?

Behind the façade of Sanctuary’s pleasant parks, all is not what it seems. Drugs and refugees are trafficked into the city while the Chosen, Blackgate’s faceless and power-suited paramilitary guard, ruthlessly enforce a buffer zone around the city. Ryker, a civilian police officer sympathetic to the plight of refugees, is powerless to stop the soldiers from gunning down two smugglers in cold blood. These events further sow doubt as to Blackgate’s motives, but the story leaves its ultimate goals a mystery.

Meanwhile, Globe Industries is focused on finding a cure so that life can return to normal. Their top scientist (and coincidentally Ryker’s wife) Sarah Jones discovers an antidote which gives hope to those outside Sanctuary’s walls. However, after leaving the event celebrating the miracle cure, the couple’s car swerves to miss a man and child standing in the road. The accident turns into a trap that leaves Ryker severely injured and Sarah kidnapped by thugs.

In issue 2, the megalomaniac Valen decides that the time is ripe to consolidate Blackgate’s grip over the country. He tests his advanced tech against the remnants of the British military guarding a power station and quickly overpowers the larger force. The tech has an otherworldly feel but incorporates modern weapons leaving the reader to wonder who or what is behind Blackgate. Victory at hand, the Chosen illuminate their neutral face plates with skulls to terrorize the populace into submission.

Meanwhile, Sarah is presumed dead and Ryker is arrested for her murder. Fearing that Blackrock will have them killed if they try to collect on their ransom, the kidnappers decide the best plan is to kill her and dispose of the body. Sarah, trained in martial arts by Ryker, almost escapes only to be cast into a river of Red Death victims. The story leaves open who conspired to dispose of Sarah and her miracle cure but provides enough twists and turns to keep the reader guessing.

Left: Detail from the Ritter/Willis cover; Right: interior art from issue 3

The latest third issue picks up threads from issue 1 that hint at superpowered humans such as Ghost, Blackrock’s seductive assassin (featured on both the Canaan White/Clayton Barton and Rob Willis/Kyle Ritter covers). Some of these supers operate outside of Blackgate’s power structure and wield oversized blades in anime-meets-classic-Aussie style. These fantasy weapons do appear out of place in the gritty reality of the Replicator world, but the story promises to seamlessly merge them together. In the main story line, Ryker is put on trial for Sarah’s murder under the intimidating eyes of the Chosen. From the evidence presented, Sarah is revealed to have secrets of her own. You’ll have to back the book to find out more.

The art style in the most recent 32-page third issue (featuring pencils by William War Reyes and inks by Chris Arieswendha and Jimmy Reyes) deviates slightly from the previous issues with some panels looking more anime influenced. The new colors by Michael Bancroft and Korey Barton are more vibrant than previous issues, which I find to be an improvement, yet still appropriate to the dark themes of the series.

Overall, Replicator is a fast-paced story of unchecked corporate power peppered with gore and nudity (obscured for a PG-13 rating). Rob Arnold is a compelling, yet selective narrator for his series. His presentation reveals just enough of the puzzle to leave the reader curious for more while hinting at connections and conspiracies to be exposed in coming issues. If this sounds like a good time to you, then Replicator comes with a solid recommendation from this reviewer.

Replicator issue 3 and catch-up tiers are available In Demand on IndieGogo and linked through CGNow.net.

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