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The Villikon Chronicles

It's hard to know where to start with The Villikon Chronicles. An original story by Bryan J. Kinnaird, converted from his award-winning screenplay into graphic novel format by Roy Young, the three volume saga is sub-amateur writing dressed up with pretty pictures and sexy vampire vixens.

Chronicles is set in a fundamentalist, military, space-faring universe, populated by humans and some underdeveloped species of aliens. Kort Villikon is our hero, a highly ranked warrior nobleman framed for planetary genocide by his second in command, and exiled to the penal planet of Arakkis, err Rura Penthe, no…wait, here it is, Itasca. Yeah, that's it. Itasca is a desert wasteland inexplicably topped with vast icecaps, and is home to exiled prisoners, huge subterranean critters called dirt whales, and a race of infectious mutants known as Porphyrians.

The Porphyrians it seems are a failed experiment in bio-warfare created by a mad Admiral whose sole purpose in life seems to be orbiting Itasca and concealing their existence. They are lead by Creighton, a Rob Zombie look-alike with piranha teeth, who sends them off to feed upon and infect the convicts. The Porphyrians are vampire-like creatures whose bite will cause the victim to become like them, powerful, evil and undead…with a propensity for black armor or lingerie, depending on gender.

However, the universe of The Villikon Chronicles is vast and richly imagined. Though much of it is clearly inspired by Frank Herbert's Dune series (the desert planet and dirt whales, as well as the deeply religious nature of the ruling class all invoke Dune), there is still enough differentiation to set it apart. There is a great deal of history suggested, which I'm sure will be covered in future books.

What I enjoyed most about the trilogy was the art. Credited for visual design and conceptual art, Roy Young did a stunning job of creating Villikon's world. Epic battles between dirt whales, their larger cousins the war slugs, and really creepy fighter jet sized mosquitoes called blood flies are realized in amazing detail. The landscape of Itasca, particularly a hidden oasis of green forests and flowers, are beautifully rendered with a finely tuned sense of light and shadow.

The books launch us into the universe with little explanation of the society and characters, leaving it to the events and dialog to do the job, and this is where it all falls apart. The text is awful. I mean it's really, really bad. The action is narrated, and even when it is clearly being shown, the narration explains in overly flowery language what we're looking at.

In a scene where Villikon has discovered the hidden oasis after years of roaming through a desert, the narration, over scenes of him stripping off his clothes and leaping from a waterfall into a dark pool, tells us that he's stripping off his clothes and leaping into a dark pool.

Okay, what it actually says is, Villikon: "I couldn't peel away my dusty garments fast enough" then narration, "Villikon leapt from the sure-footed safety of the plateau, and plunged into the tropical waters of the unknown. Euphoric feelings captured his better sense of judgment. A fatigued man doesn't think about the consequence of entering dark waters."

It goes on to hint at something dark and dangerous lurking in the deep, while Villikon swims through clear empty water. The narration attempts to set up what a change in tone and lighting could have accomplished, and instead of suspense, we get clumsy description.

The dialog is equally bad. I couldn't keep track of all the lines that made me giggle at their absurdity, so I started tagging them with post-it flags. I've gone through about thirty flags, and that's only because I marked the page rather than the line. During Villikon's exodus alone through the desert, his voice-over narration tells us, "I walked the dunes alone for what seemed like an eternity, never seeing a living thing. It was a desert as empty and lifeless as my soul."

In another scene, Villikon confronts a lone Porphyrian in the desert and they have an almost friendly exchange of threats. The Porphyrian, with the oh-so-subtle name of Luciphus, tells Villikon how to kill him. Villikon asks him if they are going to fight, and Luciphus declares, "This body shall only cease with the cleaving of my head."

There have to be better ways of telling the reader the Porphyrian's weakness than having one of them explain it to a guy with a sword.

There are other offenses, Villikon refers to a pretty flower as a, "floral species of anomalous beauty," but I won't attempt to list them all. It's enough to say that it reads like fan-fic written by a goth-wannabe adolescent just discovering the glories of the thesaurus.

My other complaints rest with the characterizations. Although the photoshopped images of real people fitted in seamlessly with the fantastical backgrounds, they had almost no expression, and there was no sense of movement about them.

The male characters fared somewhat better in this respect, though. The females were all fairly empty. Scantily clad and vacant, every woman was defined solely by her relationship to men. The one warrior woman on Itasca, when she was permitted to bring out her two swords and look bad-ass, used her battle skills to carve up a dead war slug for dinner.

Women in The Villikon Chronicles are judged based on their sexual behavior. Do they remain true to their husband or lover? Then they're good. Are they adulteresses or whores? Then they're evil. It's interesting to note that before his banishment, Villikon had carried out an affair with a crewmember of his ship, yet when his wife marries his betrayor after his exile, she becomes deserving of abandonment on Itasca.

Still, it's male-oriented fantasy, which means boobs and hot girl-on-girl action (hey, female vampires are alluring -- editor), so I can't expect too much.

There're plenty of boobs, explosions, really pretty art, and an interesting mythology, so if you can get past the wretched dialog and ham-handed exposition, you just may enjoy The Villikon Chronicles.

Marin Carpenter

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