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‘Caliban’ #3 showcases what works so well about horror and some of the genre’s limitations

‘Caliban’ #3 showcases what works so well about horror and some of the genre’s limitations

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Caliban #3
Written by Garth Ennis
Art by Facundo Percio
Published by Avatar Press

Now it is starting to hit the fan. That’s a telling statement, given that the opening issue of this comic has the Caliban crashing into an alien ship. Now, however, the crew knows that somebody is going around squishing people’s heads, and it’s one of their own.

The crew of the Caliban is discussing what happened to Karien and their murdered mate as Nomi waxes guilty over her timidity and inaction. Elsewhere in the ship, Karien is visiting an alien room which resembles some kind of laboratory. He draws the most frightening-looking syringe imaginable and injects himself full of some chemical. Elsewhere, two crew members, Cuthbert and Pierce are discussing with the captain what to do. Over the comms, Cuthbert refers to San and Nomi as a “couple of dykes,” which leads San to disclose her interest in Nomi.

Karien discretely kidnaps Pierce, and in a fight over the Comms, proceeds to torture her. She puts up a good Caliban 3fight, but we discover that whatever “Karien” injected into himself made him both freakishly strong and gave him a healing factor. The captain, who apparently had a thing for Pierce, is distraught, so much so he can’t stop Karien from grabbing Cuthbert away. There we see that Karien broke nearly every bone in her body, and before Cuthbert is brutally murdered, Pierce chillingly whispers to him that Karien wants to see how much they can take before they break.

This is an issue that showcases what works so well about horror and some of the genre’s limitations. Let’s get the bad stuff out of the way first. Because so many of the characters here are destined for the chopping block, their character development is muted at best. Character development for everybody else only happens as long as they survive, which may not be very long at all. This was the first issue where I really established who Pierce was and that she had an interest in the captain, so the tragic end of their relationship doesn’t feel particularly tragic. It’s hard to be invested in a character you don’t know. San and Nomi are the only real characters here, with the possible exception of Macartney, and that only because of his hilariously Irish mannerisms.

Furthermore, the name game in this comic is just flat out hard. I already spelled this out in a previous issue, but it would have helped to have a list of names just to keep track of everybody. As it is, to write these reviews I have to go back and forth through all the issues just to make sure I have them right.

So what part of this comic works? The part where it’s really scary. Good horror rests on the idea that you might be able to defeat whatever you’re up against, but the people who go usually fail. Pierce might have been able to take Karien before, and to her credit she does give him a good fight, but once we see how roided up he is, we know that she’s doomed. Even more horrifying is the impassivity with which he brutalizes and takes apart the crew. A laughing psychopath is one thing, but one that kills so scientifically might be even more disturbing.

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