John Carpenter’s Tales of Science Fiction: Vortex #4
Written by Mike Sizemore
Pencils and Inks by Dave Kennedy
Colors by Pete Kennedy
Lettering by Janice Chiang
Edited by Sandy King
Cover Art by Tim Bradstreet
Storm King Comics
Release date: January 31, 2018
“Yesterday upon the stair, I met a man who wasn’t there.” – Hughes Mearns
Another historic poetic verse puts in motion issue 4 of Vortex, the second story arc in John Carpenter’s Tales of Science Fiction, a monthly anthology series from Storm King Comics. The verse opens Mearns’ 1899 poem “Antigonish” and has been referenced for everything from ghost stories to Lil Wayne rap songs. Here the “man who wasn’t there” could be the haunting presence on both the deep space mining colony and the Space Station Benson on the other side of the galaxy.
Captain Jake Dixon, sexy space pilot Anna Cheron, and mission leader Taylor are searching the tunnels for more survivors of an explosion that was thought to have also killed Dixon’s partners. They were shocked to find Willow Sinclair somehow alive and she frantically pleads with them to keep searching. Unfortunately, they are joined by super shady Anderson who has shown several hintings of being something more than meets the eye.
This turns out to be more true for those on the Benson as the woman last seen hanging out with Anderson turns into a melting mess and becomes a Lovecraftian monster, resembling a tentacled beast and overtaking a doctor on board.
It comes as no surprise that Vortex was developed from a story by Carpenter and his wife and collaborator Sandy King Carpenter. The monster and his taking over human bodies pays homage to his own classic The Thing (1982) and Carpenter also delved into Lovecraftian themes with Prince of Darkness (1987) and In the Mouth of Madness (1994). The art by Dave Kennedy brings those themes straight to the page in gory detail.
In the mines, things are getting scary for the rescue crew but Anderson seems “distant,” telling them “sorry, I was miles away.” Soon one of the roughnecks is attacked by an empty space suit possessed by more tentacled beings and our heroes seem all but done for with Jake, Cheron, and Taylor being face to face against monstrous odds. We close on the next verse in the Mearns poem:
“He wasn’t there again today, I wish I wish he’d go away.”
We were waiting for Vortex to hit the craziness and we got a lot of it here. Channeling sci-fi classics like Total Recall, Aliens, and The Thing, writer Mike Sizemore and his team built slowly and steadily creating characters you want to root for and evils that truly get under your skin. Vortex #4 is available now. Issue 5 is out in stores on February 28, 2018.