Review by Ian Keogh
Humanity has been subjugated for three hundred years when freedom fighters manage to strike a decisive blow and the alien invaders, known as the Management, leave. It’s publicly known that police officer Marta Gonzales worked for the invaders, but passed on decisive information to the rebels, and five years later she’s working as a private investigator. She’s canny enough to recognise a set-up when an old woman asks her to locate her son, and she already knows her former police colleagues have long memories and longer resentments, but can’t suppress her curiosity. By the second chapter she’s chest deep in the compromises and atrocities of the recent past.
Both verbally and visually, creators Alex Paknadel and Artyom Trakhanov ensure there’s a density to Turncoat, packing an incredible amount into their four chapter story. They open by introducing the basic situation, then continually return to how the world has been affected by what the aliens left behind, not just technology and the odd life forms, but beliefs and principles still embedded in much of humanity, now deeply divided. This world building embodies a wealth of thought down to small details like the strange forms of telephones or plants, and among it Paknadel and Trakhanov return to the period between the Management’s departure and the present day. Of significance are the Hybrids, the results of the Management’s attempts to cross breed with humanity
A lumpy looseness to Trakhanov’s art doesn’t have instant appeal, but a few pages in and it becomes difficult to imagine anyone else bringing this troubled era to life. He pours in the detail, to the point where unless a panel’s a close-up face it’s loaded with squirmy, crusty, and slimy effects. His distressed city and its artefacts are coated in stuff no sane person would want anywhere near them, and the reinforcement of the decay is a constant reminder of what some endure. There are some irritating quirks like pointy chins and the circling of items meant to draw the attention, but overall Trakhadov is magnificent. He’s certainly familiar with Richard Corben, and that’s all for the good.
When the full revelations come tumbling out, they’re horrific, leaving Marta with little faith in anyone, so many justifying the unpalatable in terms of the greater human need, and it’s difficult not to consider Paknadel is drawing attention to what’s done in our name today. However, that’s only in passing. For all the window dressing of SF trappings, at heart Turncoat is a tidy crime story wallowing in humanity’s more disappointing traits throughout. All mysteries introduced at the start are revealed by the end, either via effective flashbacks or effective detective work on Marta’s part, and as with another Paknadel project Arcadia, Turncoat deserves a wider audience.