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Cavity #1 (review)

Writer / Artist: Justin Randall

Gestalt Comics, 2023

There must be a word to describe the genre of horror science fiction which involves the sort of dead, remote Australia most people are only familiar with from the Mad Max movies. “Outback dystopia”, perhaps, which sounds much better than “Road Warrior Australian”. This title, Cavity, is not quite science fiction as it has elements which are more akin to the fantasy worlds of Seven to Eternity and East of West, those manic false futures which skim steampunk and are imbued with fantasy elements. Cavity however is decidedly Outback Dystopian: it tells us on the first page that it is set in the Outback; it features remote communities of sugar farmers as we see in vast plains of Queensland; and drops into a monologue the Australiana of nanna naps.

Here is the promotional copy:

Luna is a pest control agent. She works for big city, killing monsters in the outback so the sugar farms can deliver an uninterrupted supply.
But the isolation and heatwaves in sector R-6 have awoken a monster of a very different kind…

The title is written and illustrated by Jason Randall. We are across Mr Randall’s work from his wonderful science fiction / horror title Changing Ways, also published by Perth-based imprint Gestalt. Cavity is much more whimsical, but still features Mr Randall’s trademark gore and creepiness.

No one can flaw Mr Randall’s art, which is very reminiscent of the work of Frazer Irving. It has Mr Irving’s sense of smooth unearthliness, especially in the characters’ faces. No one is classically comic book pretty. Instead, the sugar farmers all look decidedly elfish with elongated noses and sickly pale skin, the combination of oddness and remoteness suggesting inbreeding. Luna, who flies the desert drifter balloon called Brenda, has a regular nose but pasty skin, and yellow eyes much more akin to urine than gold. Luna travels the Outback killing foul creatures called seeker worms, which look like giant lamprey fish. She’s a sympathetic person, sparing a desperately impoverished farm her regular fee. Her visit to a far-flung farm in sector R-6 is a reluctant three-day flight. Mr Randall reminds us perhaps of the distress signal in the motion picture Alien, which lures unwitting rescuers into the clutches of an egg-laying monster.

Mr Randall’s deft touches of world-building are quirky and intriguing. People greet each other by unique flute song, and as Luna notes to herself, “Its.. rude to ignore a flute.” There is etiquette even in the sugar cane backwaters. People live on services tokens rather than money, which reminds us of 17th century trade tokens used by Londoners and beyond in an age where small change was too big for commoners. And Luna works for Big City Home Services, which has a 1950s corporate logo and gives out matchbooks.

It is a wonderful beginning, meat hooks, isolation, and empty beer cans, all oozing slow menace.

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