- K.O.G.s- Keeper of the Gates #4
- Valor Printing
- Created by Dan DeMille & Rod Jacobsen
- Written by Lee A. Gooden
- Illustrated & Lettered by Dan DeMille
- Edited by Jodi Weber
As the KOGs team copes with the death of one of their own, they go their separate ways. While off on their own, a coordinated attack hits the team members. Flying lamprey-like creatures seem determined to latch onto the KOGs, and when they do the elite warriors are forced to live out their greatest fears. The repressed memories of team leader Josh “Chief” Tratha may hold a clue to the identity of the individual behind the organized attacks. He’ll need to work through the trauma haunting him before we’ll know for sure.
K.O.G.s is one of those independent titles that comes to my mind when I hear the phrase “diamond in the rough”. I’d reviewed issue three a while back, and remembered thinking that there was a lot going on in the series. Not having read the first two issues, I had to make some leaps as I tried to follow the story. Tired of playing catch up as I went into issue four, I hit up ComiXology to do some homework (at 99 cents an issue, it’s a bargain). Now that I’ve read all available issues, I’ve validated my earlier opinions on the series and its creative team.
In the earlier issues, one of the things that struck me was that it was pretty obvious that co-creator/illustrator was relying heavily on reference photos. DeMille’s artwork is very good, and he continues to work on keeping the action smooth & dynamic, but there were moments where I caught myself wondering what magazine he’d used to nail a particular pose. Now that he’s got four issues behind him, that hasn’t been the case. It’s obvious that he’s put in the time & effort working on drawing his figures, and while he may still be using visual references (as artists do), it isn’t nearly as obvious. DeMille has a pretty good grasp on the characters, managing to keep individuals distinct in build, hairstyle, & facial features. That might sound like an obvious thing, but it isn’t always so in comics and given that he’s tackling the art, colors, & lettering for K.O.G.s it’s a feat worth mentioning.
Lee Gooden has also come a ways over the course of four issues, and it looks like he’s hitting a stride as he’s smoothed over some of the bumps from previous issues. K.O.G.s could easily have fallen into a standard gut-check comic, all action and gore, but I get the impression that the creative team has worked very hard to avoid those well-traveled paths. I know that Dan DeMille is an Army veteran (thank you for your service, sir), as is shown in the meaningful way that concepts of PTSD and survivor’s guilt are handled. In this issue, the layers Gooden has worked into the story shows a lot of thought and regard for the subject. The previous issue showed the KOGs team members dealing with their individual issues in some very unique and not always healthy ways, and it gave some insight into the kinds of people that find their way into the world of special operations. In this issue, Gooden’s worked in a great plot device in the form of the lamprey-like “baykok” creatures. As they were latching onto the various characters and forcing them to relive their most horrific fears and experiences, it occurred to me that they made a fantastic stand-in for the way PTSD worms its way into the thoughts of those who have to deal with it.
If there were a notable criticism to be had, it’s in the flashbacks making up a good chunk of this issue, and the abrupt end that sets up the cliffhanger leading into issue five. I don’t know how the team might have worked the flashbacks to make them stand out more from the present-day parts of the story, but some kind of visual cue could have been helpful in keeping it all straight. And the end of the issue slams on the breaks so suddenly that I was checking to make sure there wasn’t another page that I’d missed.
K.O.G.s: Keeper of the Gates is a title that works for me on a few levels. It has the action of a comic that features an elite team of military special operators, and it pulls off some slick storytelling to build in the layers that can keep it interesting where other titles can go stale. On top of all that, it’s cool to be able to go back and see a progression as everyone behind a comic levels up in their craft. I’m looking forward to seeing how the crew continues to step up their game for future issues.
Final Score: 10/13