by Gavin Johnston on July 25, 2018

Writer: Dan Abnett
Artist: INJ Culbard
Publisher: Rebellion

A few decades from now, Earth has been abandoned and the human race has migrated into space to live cramped and stressful lives in an array of vast space stations, known as the Brink.

Trapped together in an artificial environment, the population self-medicates to keep madness at bay. The threat of violence is constant. New societies form around union membership, or gang warfare. New and dangerous religions form. Police officer Bridget Kurtis witnesses her partner’s murder at the hands of a strange cult, who seek the return of ancient gods.

Book One of Brink ended with the threat of these cults finally being taken seriously, just as contact with an outpost on the planet Mercury is suddenly lost.

Book Two sees Kurtis having left the police force, employed as a private investigator by a corporation who are building a new space station. Construction is a dangerous job, but a series of strange deaths and reports of "hauntings" have the shareholders rattled. Could the cults be to blame?

Modern Lovecraftian fiction frequently uses the bare bones of the original mythos, but updates the horror for modern readers by adding heroism and action. Brink is Lovecraftian in the truest way. It’s setting may be heavily science fiction, but it’s a claustrophobic horror story where the true terror is never revealed. The monsters are flawed people who seek to bring darkness into the world. Insanity is just around the corner, but violence is rare, and characters actively try to avoid it. In so much detective fiction, guns are fired at the first sign of trouble, but here, seasoned detectives do everything they can to avoid firing the first shot. Brink is an intelligent story, based around character and place.  Brink uses the deep unease of Lovecrafts horror to build a complelling universe, in the same way it was used by tv drama series True Detective.  It's not really about supernatural monsters, it's about the horrors that people can commit.

Previously, Brink dealt with the idea of a large and unstable population cramped into a decaying space station. Book Two sees the story move to a new environment, where vast and clean indoor spaces and a lack of crowds make the characters nauseous and creates a sense of unease. These are people who have always lived indoors, with barely enough room to move. Here, Kurtis is provided with living quarters which have enough room to walk around in, and is immediately on edge.

INJ Culbard’s art is a joy throughout. Simple lines provide clear and emotive characters and designs, with vast environments or immense structures rendered without fuss. Colour radiates from the page, carefully detailed with light and shade. Scenes and characters are colour-coded, with unnatural shades and artificial light used to create a supernatural environment, but elsewhere, wide panels and natural skyscapes create space. The use of a rigid panel layout with thick, black gutters creates a sense of tension. In some scenes, when things are especially hostile, shadowy foreground characters merge with the gutters, narrowing the panel.

Lettering by Simon Bowland, who strangely isn’t credited in this edition, does an excellent job of bringing order to the often complex conversations. Details about characters are provided in small “pop-up” style boxes, which would have been useful when Brink was originally published in five page instalments, but are a little superfluous now, although are still a well designed touch. Sound effects are rare, and extremely subtle.

Brink was a police procedural set in space, which hinted at low level religious extremists who sought to end the world. Book Two takes the story to the next level, with a more awful future imagined for the last surviving humans. It ends with new discoveries and many questions unanswered...

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