Assuming direct control - The Kill Lock
A soldier, a child, a murderer, and an addict are all branded criminals, sentenced to be linked together in the Kill Locke, a system that if one of them dies, they all do. Banished from their homeworld for crimes, it becomes a brutal fight for survival as these loners must learn that now, it’s all for one, and one for all. With only a small hint as to where the originator of the Kill Locke is located, they set out amongst the stars fighting for their lives.
I was blindsided by the quality of this story, it came onto my radar one day on social media when someone was taking suggestions for “best of” the year. The person suggested it spoke so highly of it saying little, peaking my curiosity. A story set in space in a world completely populated by robots, the story follows four different types: a lowly labourer, a newly made child, a psychotic maker, and a brutal destroyer. The truth behind how all four came together is held close to the chest as they four constantly clash over their survival; with the laborer dealing with his substance abuse, the Maker asserting his dominance and schemes, the destroyer trying to absolve himself of his actions, and the child who is so new to the world, unsure who he can trust. Over the course of six issues, they jump between frozen tundras, seedy markets, decimated warzones, and long forgotten worlds.
I can say with confidence this has been a true hidden gem of the year for me, feeling fully engrossed in the narrative and genuine concern for these bots survival. Ramondelli in such a short amount of time really makes you become invested in these four, and it is all beautifully depicted with art that you don’t normally see, save for the Transformer series. Some have doubts, the author included, about readers gravitating and caring for machines, but I can relieve those fears by gushing on and on about being gripped by their adventure. In only six issues, this volume tells a complete story in one of the best books I've read all year, print or graphic. The less I spoil about the ride it takes you on the better, as the twists and turns will leave you flipping to the next page with urgency, especially towards the last several issues.
My favorite aspect of the story was the mystery and why of their sentencing, one that kept me guessing until the final issue, when everything clicked into place for me right before it was fully revealed, a mark of a good mystery to me. Even the finale leaves you questioning whether it is truly happy, sad, bittersweet, or something else entirely. I recommend anyone with interest in science fiction stories or even AI pick this up, as it is a one and down six issue story, available as a single trade from IDW.
9 robot criminals out of 10