"Terrorwar #1" Comic Review

Written by Ricardo Serrano Denis

Published by Image Comics

terrorwar cover

Written by Saladin Ahmed
Illustrated by Dave Acosta
Lettered by Shawn Lee
Colored by Walter Pereyra
Inks by Jay Leisten
4/19/2023, 30 pages

Review:

Whenever horror and sci-fi lands on a story that brings out the best from each genre, the results can be nothing short of spectacular. It’s a curious mix, these two genres. Generally, though not exclusively, horror looks inward and finds fear in the taboo and the personal. Science fiction, on the other hand, takes a step back to consider the macro, to look at how society as a whole can transform into something we should worry about, or at least seriously consider.

This is the case with Saladin Ahmed and Dave Acosta’s Terrorwar, a new Image Comics series that considers the forms and shapes fear can take in the future. It’s a simple yet potent metaphor about the monsters our imaginations can conjure and how complicated it can be to keep them in check, especially in an environment where solutions are marketed through tiered paid packages.

The story is set in Blue City, the only remaining livable place on Earth. Creatures called Terrors afflict the people living there, monsters that can physically turn into people’s fears with murderous intent. A group of freelance contractors known as terrorfighters, led by main character Muhammad, fight off these monsters for a fee, but they have competition and they have to be careful their traumas don’t materialize to cut their heads off.

Click images to enlarge.

Terrorwar could pass quite easily as a 2000AD story with its dark sci-fi sensibilities and more politically charged commentary. Its world is built like a messy dystopia that adheres to classically defined version of social class, the kind that sees the privileged living in brightly futuristic and clean parts of the city while the lower classes are forced to navigate areas that have been repurposed into stores, places to eat, and homes that are barely visible under the mess of cables and neon signs that dominate the landscape.

Ahmed expertly weaves storied characters into lived-in environments for a read that puts you immediately inside the story from the very first page. His main character, Muhammad, reminds of the kind of leading role found in Twilight Zone episodes, a type of person that is invested in giving his audience things to think about and consider along with his own worldview and how the story’s sequence of events bounce off it.

Much like Ahmed’s supernatural journalist comic, Abbott, the writing behind Terrorwar feels urgent and focused in a 1970’s political-thriller kind of way, but the horror elements and the way the terrorfighters relate to each other remind of John Carpenter movies from the 1980s. There’s a grittiness to it that resonates with that decade’s brand of horror in how big and loud it can be while trying to disturb its audience.

Click images to enlarge.

Acosta’s art and Walter Pereyra’s colors prop up those Eighties vibes to strengthen the story’s ties to that time period in terms of references and visual cues. This can best be appreciated with the design of the Terrors. They can be quite cartoonish and exaggerated, but they possess those larger-than-life qualities nightmares often carry to make them seem like insurmountable fears with the capacity to burrow into our psyches. They project malice and a hunger for death, but they also hint to a kind of trauma that reveals more about the victims’ personal histories rather than being arbitrary horror constructs. Pereyra’s colors accentuate this with bright and solid tones that make their designs feel even more menacing while also building upon the things the Terrors can represent.

Terrorwar #1 is a fun but dense read that rewards readers that like to read between lines to engage with messages and metaphors. Fans of John Carpenter and The Twilight Zone have a very welcoming home in Ahmed and Acosta’s new series, especially those who enjoy stories that cross genres freely but respectfully. Just remember to consider that it wouldn’t be a bad idea to confront your fears just in case we end up stuck in this comic’s version of the future.

Grades:

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Buy from Amazon US.
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Buy from Amazon UK.
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Ricardo Serrano Denis
Staff Reviewer
Ricardo believes that everything can be explained with horror. It’s why he uses it in his History classes and why he writes about horror comics. He holds a Master’s degree in Comics from the University of Dundee in Scotland in which he studied the relationship between Frankenstein and Marvel’s Ultron. He was born and raised in Puerto Rico and is now based in Brooklyn.
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