Space Gladiator is in many ways a composite of several other stories and familiar themes with the addition of social commentary and parallels to our society. I’m sure that others that have read the book would be quick to point out its influences, but what I found enjoyable about this book was that though influenced by other Sci-Fi works everything mixes together to create something new and interesting.
We’re introduced to Til, who is quite possibly the last human in existence. Though set in the future his home looks very much like our own today. As he wakes up he goes through his morning routine including a trip to the toilet. That’s when it gets interesting as we discover that Til is an exhibit on an intergalactic zoo. Aliens from all over come to stare at him and while he doesn’t have much say in it, he doesn’t have to put on a show for them either. The owner of the Zoo pays Til a visit and leaves some thugs to encourage him to be more… active in his role at the Zoo.
From there we meet Prince Malichar who is currently razing a planet that stood against the ruling empire of the galaxy. He’s plotting to kill his father and take the mantle of God-Emperor because he’s evil that way. The story beings to bounce between Til and Malichar whose destines are intertwined and waiting to come to a conclusion. On Til’s side we find a group of Krazmir raiding the zoo and killing as they go, they shoot Til’s nurse who was the only kind person in his life and he stands up to the men. They knock him out and take the other exhibits to a slave auction. Meanwhile, Malichar is crowned God-Emperor as the society believes in only one God that transfers into a new body based on the say so of whoever is leader. Malichar’s mother tells him that she knows it was him that killed his father, but he brushes it off because he’s God now.
Til on the other hand is sold into slavery with the purpose of fighting as a gladiator for the entertainment of the God-Emperor and his worshipers. As he gets ready for his first bout with the rest of the slave gladiators, we’re taken back in time with Til and his father. Here we learn just how Malichar and Til are connected.
I really enjoyed this story due to the characters. Til is unlike any other “hero” in his situation because he’s not a meathead. He was never a leader or a fighter; he just played a lot of video games and led a sheltered life due to the fact that he was a prisoner. It really as if someone from our time was thrown into the situation, but without them actually being from our time. Usually in gladiator stories the “hero” is some kind of badass that’s been wrongly imprisoned or whatever, but Til is really just clueless. He’s like the dumbest sweetest character ever. The only time he even remotely gets aggressive or angry is when he comes face to face with Malichar for the first time.
Speaking of Malicahr, he’s an ass. I loved to hate his character so much as his arrogance knew no bounds. That’s the sign of a great villain if the reader actually likes him because they hate him so much. Cole Haddon (The Strange Case of Mr. Hyde) creates a cosmic universe that rivals either of the “big twos” and populates it with familiar and yet very unique worlds. The characters are the driving force of the story as every single one plays their role and is very interesting. The dialog is sharp and witty depending on the character, but you’ll always find some amusement or entertainment from the story.
I’m not a huge fan of the cover as it doesn’t do the interior art any justice at all. Three artists tackle the story inside and I couldn’t tell you who does what part because it all seamlessly blends together. The battles are detailed and easy to follow, but manage to keep it PG-13 so that it’s not a blood bath on the page. In particular I enjoyed the opening pages with Til running through his mundane life because some of the most common place scenes like that are rarely seen in comics. You may not be a fan of seeing a grown man on the toilet, but I for one appreciated the realness of the scene. There was also a great love scene that was passionate, intimate and yet remained tasteful.
If you’re a Sci-Fi lover this is a hard book to pass up; even if you just enjoy gladiator style stories you’ll definitely enjoy this tale. It’s an entertaining read with great characters and story that everyone can relate to emotionally on some level. The interior art is gorgeous and creates an interesting cosmic galaxy that I would love to see explored further. You may look at this book and simply say it’s just “this” plus “this”, but I think you’ll find that this story has a lot more to offer than simply being a sum of its influences.
Writer: Cole Haddon
Artists: Jim Fern, Jesus Redondo Roman with Francisco Tapias Lopez
Publisher: Kickstart Comics
Release Date: 10/12/12