Review: Kino #4 – “The Record Skip”

KINO #4 Review Cover

KINO #4 / Writer: Joe Casey / Art: Jefte Palo / Letterer: Todd Klein / Colors: Chris Sotomayor / Publisher: Lion Forge Comics / Release Date: February 28th, 2018 

Kino #4 from Lion Forge continues to build the Catalyst Prime Universe. A meteor threatened human existence and five brave astronauts saved everyone. All of them were long thought dead and one of them was British astronaut, Alistair Meath. This universe is heavily rooted in science fiction and government conspiracy. Not too many know that these heroes are alive, and the ones who do, are sworn to secrecy. Of course, that doesn’t always work out, does it?

Kino #4 continues probably the most interesting Catalyst Prime title to date. The best thing about this comic from issue one to now has been Jefte Palo and Chris Sotomayor’s art. Alistair is currently unconscious and being experimented on by egotistical scientist Arturo Assante. Arturo’s motivations seem clear at first, but as this story has gone on, he seems that he might be misguided, and not evil. And that’s what’s interesting about this entire line of comics. Alistair was the property of Lorena Payan for a time. Lorena is the feisty CEO of a company called Foresight. This company was directly responsible for sending the astronauts to space and saving Earth. If that wasn’t enough, a British government agent wants Alistair back because of Alistair’s citizenship. And on top of all of this, Assante has been running simulations on Alistair, who seems to have some sort of powers in his comatose state. In these simulations, Alistair is a bronze age superhero and Palo changes the art to reflect the time. Thought bubbles, distinct narration, and cheesy villains. And his superhero name? You guessed it, he’s a Kinetic Impulse Neoterrestrial Operative, he’s KINO! And this issue was great because now he’s coming closer to the truth about what is happening to him.

As I mentioned before, the absolute best thing about this series are the jumps from modern art to old school art. In the real world, the plot of this story progresses nicely. All of the Catalyst Prime titles revolve around the event. Lorena Payan continues to shine as a character in this issue as well. Whether she’s in Noble, another Catalyst Prime title, or Kino, she is confident but also relatable. She just wants to keep the world safe and figure out what is happening in this new world, but she seems to be completely fine lying and sacrificing people’s personal freedoms to do so. The way she’s written in Noble and KINO though makes you sympathize with her. Because as a powerful CEO of a forward-thinking tech company, she carries a ton of weight on her shoulders. But at the end of the day, she is ruthless and will get the job done no matter what. This issue sees the appearance of a brand-new character named Clarence Coal. He was introduced in issue 2. Now, he’s been contracted by Lorena to get Alistair back from Assante. As I said though, her motives are still completely unclear and her involvement in everything in this universe is shrouded in mystery as well.

The main plot of this issue revolves around the simulation that goes on in Alistair’s head. Whenever Assante fires up this simulation, we’re instantly transported to this old school world. As a hero, KINO uses kinetic energy stores to do just about everything. The more you feed him, the more dangerous he becomes. Kino’s stories have a Superman feel when you read them. The people love him, his enemies despise him, but he remains above it all. Righteous and virtuous through and through. It’s a refreshing to see this style of comics come to life again. Writer Joe Casey does a fantastic job giving an authenticity to this world to the point, that I became invested in Kino’s fantasy world.

Jefte Palo and Chris Sotomayor’s art on this comic is such a breath of fresh air. In the normal world, Sotomayor uses bold colors and nicely fills the background with nice blues, yellows, and greens. KINO feels very much like a futuristic story. It’s filled with scientific jargon and has spy elements in there too. Palo’s switch when we go inside Alistair’s mind however is my favorite thing. It looks and reads like a bronze age comic. The colors are muted, and Palo changes the dynamic of the characters as well. Kino’s outfit looked cheesy to me at first, but Palo draws it so consistently well, and Sotomayor colors it so well that it’s grown on me. Not many comics have stories where they can do this, and if they do, I’ve seen them come off a bit pretentious and boring at times. Not this comic. I said earlier that I become invested in Kino’s fantasy world as the story goes on, and Palo and Sotomayor’s art is a huge reason.

Kino, as a story, has been pacing itself nice and slowly, but Kino #4 sees the story progress farther than it ever has before. Alistair began to question his reality at the end of issue 3. Something is up, and he is determined to figure it out. But, he must go on with his life and live it as if nothing is happening. Arturo Assante is an interesting component of this story as well. He speaks with such a dogmatic passion for enhancing humanity, that at first, it comes off a bit villainous. But he reiterates multiple times that he wants Alistair to be the hero the world needs. Once again, he might not be evil, but he clearly seems misguided. A gross miscalculation from Arturo this issue leads to some massive plot progression and some interesting character development for himself and Alistair. By the end of this issue, I wanted more and I wanted it now. Alistair finds himself in a different place by the end of this issue, and the hunt for his body continues on the outside. So many questions that need to be answered, but as with titles like Nobel, Accell, and Superb, Kino seems to be aiming at something bigger, both thematically and within the confines of this story.

The Catalyst Prime universe is filled with diverse writers, artists, and editors. Senior Editor, Joe Illidge, constantly talks about how important that was when deciding to build this universe. And it shows. Each story is a bit different, but the editors and staff do such a great job to make sure each story feels connected to the overall narrative. Kino is no different. And it might have bigger consequences for the universe, given Alistair Meath’s situation. It’s kind of funny. Each person involved in the event that saved Earth has been heralded as a hero. But ever since they’ve gotten back, especially Alistair, they’ve been treated like lab rats. There’s only so far the “greater good” argument can stretch. And I hope that Alistair finds the freedom he deserves. Overall, this was probably the best issue of the series other than the first. Palo and Sotomayor continue to do great work with this contrasting art. Coal is an interesting character, Lorena continues to be likeable but evil at the same time, and Arturo might have set forth a chain of events he isn’t ready for, and I cannot wait.

Verdict: 4 out of 5

"His name is Toren Chenault but he goes by Raymond X. He's currently a student attending Michigan State University from where he will graduate this spring. He loves all things nerd culture from television to comics and his favorite heroes are Daredevil, Obi-Wan Kenobi, Nighthawk, and Captain Atom. Toren is a writer as well, and his debut superhero novel, Mystic Man, will be released this year.

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