Heading Into The Brink
Tripwire continues its 100 Graphic Novels You Should Read While Stuck Inside with its twenty-ninth choice, Brink by Dan Abnett and INJ Culbard , reviewed by Tripwire contributing writer Tim Hayes…
Writer: Dan Abnett
Artist: INJ Culbard
By 2000AD’s usual measures, Brink is a slow-burn character piece in a genre that the comic doesn’t embrace all that often, a full-scale police-procedural in which gods and monsters make only peripheral and unconfirmed appearances. But it’s an evergreen set-up that always suits a sci-fi spin: ordinary working cops rubbing shoulders with criminals and commerce, thieves and tycoons, and discovering that the world they’re in even more cynical than they thought it was. All this happens in Brink too, with some added cosmology and conspiracy theory thrown in. The guns may be futuristic, but the crime story vibe is tried and tested.
Writer Dan Abnett has shuffled humanity off from a ruined Earth and put us out in space, living within a group of artificial space stations. A murder on one of these habitats brings two investigating officers to the scene – Carl Brinkman, known as “Brink,” and Bridget Kurtis, drawn by INJ Culbard to have the firm gaze and striking unibrow of Frida Kahlo. The names suggest whom the story will focus on, but Abnett is cunning and the rug is swiftly pulled. In any case, “brink” here also means the tension of humanity at a critical juncture, sat on the precipice of something epochal, or unknown, or just impossible to predict. The species is at a crisis point, and the psychological pressure is building up.
Brink’s working class law-enforcement marshals and their drama on the high frontier have all the right pop-culture influences – the Sean Connery film Outland is acknowledged more than once – but Abnett smartly puts his cops between two vast and invisible forces: the industrial and business concerns running humanity’s remaining home at a profit, and the less concrete folklore and paranoias bubbling up from a displaced population under pressure. Even though it’s not overt satire, Brink’s mass migrations and friction between white-collar and blue-collar on top of its crime story credentials make it a story of commerce and class too, with an eye as much on real-world tensions as on the physics of interstellar travel, or on the evil space god spoken of in enchanted whispers that might not even exist.
Culbard’s art is full of colour, dominated by solid planes and blocks of tint, along with expressive grimacing faces that owe something to animation and have the right energy for the story. Brink’s interiors are narrow and confined, full of small cabins and strip lighting and OLED view screens just an arms-length away. The exterior, though, is always close. Bridget Kurtis is trusting and empathetic, but as drawn by Culbard the blackness outside her window is very black, and the void is very deep.
Here’s links to the other graphic novels reviewed so far