Travelling Man's Blog

Review: Dead Girls by Travelling Man

Written by Richard Calder

Pencils, Colours & Letters by Leonardo M Giron

Cover by Jim Burns

Published by Murky Depths



In the near future, an act of nanotechnological terrorism is stealing humanity’s future. Girls infected with the ‘doll virus’ are transformed at the molecular level into nanotech robots, vampires with incredible strength, speed and versatility and one goal; spread the plague.

Primavera Bobinski is a Doll carrier. Iggy Zwakh is her stalker turned boyfriend turned partner in crime. Fleeing a London that wants them dead and burnt for good measure, Primavera and Iggy head to Bangkok and try make a new life for themselves.

And that’s when the trouble really starts.

Adapted from his own novel, Richard Calder’s script is the sort of full-tilt, comics-with-guitars sprint that would make 2000AD proud. In fact, 2000AD’s a pretty solid touchstone for the entire thing with Giron’s excellent, spacious artwork evoking Carlos Ezquerra at his best. There’s the same neon-soaked landscapes, the same sense of stories and characters existing in the cracks of a larger world and the same cheerful fondness for violence. The major differences are twofold, and they mark this out as something intoxicating and very different.

The first is the language. In places it feels like Calder is trying to cram too many words onto the page, as concepts and characters elbow each other in the ribs to get your attention. Pimavera in particular has a very odd, mannered way of speaking that, chances are, will annoy you for the first few pages. Then you’ll settle into it and see that her speech pattern is as much a part of her character as anything else. It’s also given a very smart in-plot explanation which heightens the horror that lies at her core. Primavera is, to misquote that old X-Factor issue a dead girl filled with nanotech. She’s a monster, something brand new and somehow becomes one of the purest takes on the vampire in years as a result. She’s fascinating, terrifying and absolutely deadly. And Iggy can’t get enough of her.

Let’s talk about Iggy for a moment, because he’s as revolutionary as the Doll he belongs to. Iggy is not a hero. He’s not tough, he’s not especially smart. He’s a cowardly young man who thinks with his libido and on his worst day is two steps away from being a sex offender. Calder doesn’t pull any punches with Iggy and in doing so, somehow, makes him as pure an example of his character type as Prim is of her own. One’s a vampire. One’s a desperately willing Renfield. The thing they feel isn’t quite love but they feel it so strongly it doesn’t really matter.

The second thing that marks this out as something unique comes from GIron’s artwork. It’s kinetic, fast, expressive stuff that revels in the scale of the later chapters in particular and marries that Ezquerra-esque sensibility with a clear, deep love for various kinds of manga. The action here is as kinetic and brutal as it is in any given 2000AD but the iconography owes far more to the likes of Ghost in the Shell. In the hands of a lesser artist, this would tip over into straight up titillation. Here that’s acknowledged and used as a character beat for Primavera and a central pillar of the world building. The end result is an intoxicating, at times deeply disturbing sprint through a cyberpunk underworld in the company of either the worst, or best, possible people we could go there with. Very fast, often very funny and brimming with energy and invention, Dead Girls is cyberpunk in its purest, most mercurial form and a must read for fans of the genre.

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