Tuesday, April 23, 2024

The Cull, Graphic Novel

Once again, everything that is about to go wrong is the fault of Gen Z’ers, but readers are supposed to identify with them anyway. They are the ones who get lost in an in-between dimension and they are the ones that lure a cosmic kaiju back to our world in Kelly Thompson’s graphic novel, The Cull, vol., which releases today.

Cleo still blames herself for her little brother Jake’s disappearance and presumed death, so her four best friends humor her, agreeing to meet at Black Water Beach, supposedly to film one of her final “short films” before they graduate. As they follow her into a cave in one of the massive geologic formations, they discover a portal into what they deduce is a kind of “liminal” space between dimensions.

Of course, Cleo insists on venturing inside, hoping to find Jake there. Instead, they encounter a hive mind ecosystem that welcomes Cleo’s friends and rewards them with super-powers reflective of their personalities. However, the hive mind recognizes Cleo’s emotional damage and thereby deems her a danger to the ecosystem that it must eradicate.

Her friends take exception, protecting Cleo from the collective environment. Unfortunately, when they flee back through the portal they find a kaiju-like monster terrorizing their world. They also discover time passed much slower in the liminal dimension, so they fear their families probably assume they are long dead.

Although the cosmic portal travel is somewhat different,
The Cull feels very much like Paper Girls, but with less distinctive characters. Aside from Cleo, everyone in the first five collected issues sound and act like cardboard cutouts from any generic YA novel. Yet, it is the dialogue, riddled with recovery and empowerment cliches, that really grows annoying.

On the plus side, Mattia de Iulis’s art and colors are often quite striking. Frankly, the Black Water Beach scenery is considerably more interesting than most of the characters.

It is hard to get teen dialogue right. If it is too hip, it will sound over-written and phony. If it is too smart or too dumb, it will not read true to life. Too often, the dialogue here could have been lifted from an old Oprah show. Not recommended, despite the slick visual style,
The Cull, vol. 1 is now on-sale wherever comics are sold.