Thursday, February 21, 2013
Z-Comm #2: Killpoint
Z-Comm #2: Killpoint, by Kyle Maning
February, 1989 Leisure Books
I’m not sure why it took me so long to get back to this series, which was courtesy the fevered imagination of David Alexander, posing under the psuedonym “Kyle Maning.” Whereas Z-Comm #1 was a bit too padded and uneventful until the final third, Killpoint fires on all cylinders from the first page, racking up a gory deathcount that rivals anything Alexander delivered in the Phoenix series.
One thing missing though is the characterization from the first volume. Whereas previously Alexander spent a lot of time introducing the five members of Z-Comm, particularly the “living weapon” Sam Profitt, here all of them are reduced to ciphers, even Profitt himself, who barely has any dialog. This isn’t a criticism, just an observation. Normally I complain about “too much action” in an action novel, but when the action’s being written by David Alexander, there can never be too much.
And make no mistake, Killpoint is an action onslaught, as action-heavy as Phoenix #3. Alexander piles on his customary gore and over-the-top descriptions, but for the most part plays it straight with the blood and guts. To be sure, there’s a ton of ultra-detailed sadism and violence here, but very little of the goofy death descriptions you’d find in the Phoenix novels, or even Z-Comm #1. In fact it seems Alexander here tried to play up more of a “realistic” portrayal of violence – still taken to outrageous extremes, mind you – showcasing the horrors of terrorism in an almost absurdly overblown way.
This time Z-Comm is called in to handle a possible terrorist action in Venice, during a highly-publicized meeting between the US president and the Soviet premiere. Intel has it that the infamous Vulture, a Middle Eastern terrorist leader known for his horrific torture methods, has put together an army and is already holed up on one of the innumerable islands which surround Venice, planning his attack.
Of course, everyone else is too incompetent to track down the Vulture and stop him. Enter Z-Comm, who arrive on the scene and immediately begin kicking “scum sheik” ass; Alexander doesn’t even bother with a mission prep this time, and introduces Z-Comm leader Logan Cage while he’s en route to Italy on the Orient Express – on the same train, of course, as a pair of would-be robbers, whom Cage deals with in bloody fashion.
But Alexander is only getting started; immediately after this we have an ultra sick scene where a trio of terrorists have their gruesome way with a hooker before engaging in a suicide attack on Venice, complete with one of them blasting away at tourists with an Ultimax machine gun with explosive-tipped bullets. The scene with the hooker rivals the infamously gross denoument of Phoenix #2, and will either have you running for the hills or laughing (like I was) at the incredibly dark and violent humor Alexander excels at.
Cage and his four comrades (Bear, Sam Profitt, Zabriskie, and Domino, the Smurfette of the group) basically waltz around Venice, tracking down clues, getting in frequent firefights, and beating information out of known Vulture accomplices, one of them being an exiled American mafioso. Each of them gets their share of the action spotlight, and for Domino there’s even action of the sexual variety – whereas it’s customary in the genre for female operatives to flaunt their wiles in order to distract a mark, but never going all the way with them, Alexander instead has it that Domino really gets into this aspect of her job, and therefore screws an Arabic terrorist supporter in uber-explicit detail while the rest of Z-Comm listens in on their radios.
The novel soon appropriates the feel of Invasion USA, with the Vulture’s followers launching catastrophic attacks on the citizens of Venice, who blithely go about their daily lives. By the climax of the novel the terrorists have apparently wasted half of the populace in surprise attacks on commercial areas or tourist venues, but regardless when the Vulture launches a full-on assault on the city, people are still sitting around in movie theaters or going to the mall, easy pickings for the terrorist kill crews. Again, it’s all so goofy and overdone that you can’t help but laugh…sort of like Invasion USA, in fact.
The action scenes are plentiful, but they’re also varied, from hand-to-hand combat to even fullscale military stuff, like when the Vulture wages a naval war on the wharves of Venice. And as in the previous volume it quickly appropriates a comic book feel, with each member of Z-Comm the equal to an entire army of terrorists, blowing away hordes of them with nary a scratch. But all of the plentiful action scenes are fun (and insane), especially one where Z-Comm launches a "hard probe" on a diplomatic function, a mission which of course quickly devolves into massive bloodshed and destruction.
Alexander also excels in scenes of outrageous sadism, and in addition to the aforementioned hooker-murdering there are extended bits where we see the Vulture’s infamous torture techniques, as well as another incredibly gruesome scene where Z-Comm discovers the mutilated corpses of a couple who worked as informants for the terrorists. (Humorously, Alexander has the Z-Commandos unfazed by the horrific sight.)
As you’ll note, I haven’t really gotten into the plot much. That’s because there isn’t much of one. It’s just Z-Comm following leads, getting in firefights, killing tons of terrorists, and moving on to the next attack, with an occasional topical detail about Venice on the side. There really is no plot other than that. But come on. It’s David Alexander. It’s great!