‘Caliban’ #4 – the best issue yet

Caliban #4caliban-4-Copy
Written by Garth Ennis
Art by Facundo Percio
Published by Avatar Press

Finally, we are caught up with the storyline. This was my favorite issue of the series thus far. Not only was it scary (I expected no less), but it sheds some light on just what the hell the crew of the Caliban has gotten into. I hope the remaining issues will live up to the standard set by this one.

The captain has pretty much lost it now that Pierce is gone, and the rest of the ship goes to work without him. Karien is nothing if not busy, unfortunately, and he is evaluating the limitations of this current physical form. Having drugged himself as far as the human form can go, he decides to “augment” himself instead by removing the human flesh in favor of something more durable. The crew decides to seal the remaining entrances to the ship, grabbing improvised weapons to deal with Karien.

The computer on the Caliban is busy talking to the alien computer, and San and Nomi start to see video footage ofuntitled the various aliens that they’ve seen. They surmise that the ship belonged to some kind of alien naturalists or breeders. Elsewhere, Karien decides to come knocking, and five crew members decide to try and stop him in an ambush. It goes about as badly as you’ll expect, especially now that Karien has skin that a blowtorch can’t cut through. The issue with San, Nomi, McCartney and the captain reading the message left behind by the ship’s previous owners, which begins with “We are sorry.”

It’s rare to see characters cooperating so well under pressure. It’s almost realistic, because in other stories they’d have to be screaming at each over some moronic trivialities while monsters knock at the door. Even the decision to try and fight Karien, which was clearly a bad idea, is the kind of mistake you can conceivably imagine people making. The deaths of all of those other crew members, gruesome as they were, are actually kind of a boon for the story. Now we’re down to just four human crew members, all of whom we know, and all of whom we have at least some familiarity with. Sure, most of them will still die, but there will be some gravity attached to it.

It’s also fun to finally start figuring out just what the hell Karien is and what the ship is. I keep coming back to an ominous line he said right before going to work on some nameless dude: “I am an idea, you fool.” Ennis bothers to tell the readers who exactly Caliban was (if you’ve never read The Tempest before, get to work): a servant that tried to rebel and kill its masters. We know that the owners of this ship collected animals, possibly to harvest or use them. Given Karien’s obsession with perfecting his imperfect host body and testing the physical limitations of these poor humans trapped with him, it seems to me that he is some kind of entity designed to “perfect” organisms in horrifying ways.  Now, for once, human beings get to enjoy being under the microscope.

 

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