Livio Ramondelli's original The Kill Lock miniseries was simply excellent. By combining jaw-dropping visuals of a completely robotic universe with deeply flawed characters, it instantly stood out as an outstanding piece of science fiction that went miles beyond the elevator pitch of "death row with a sci-fi twist." But the final of the six issues dropped some major plot revelations and swung the door wide open for future installments right as the comic was ending, providing a lack of fulfillment. Thankfully, Ramondelli and IDW have resolved that with a sequel in The Kill Lock: The Artisan Wraith.
Here's a quick recap in case you forgot or missed the initial series: The story centered around four robots of differing classes all convicted of crimes and connected via a Kill Lock, which immediately destroys all four if one of them dies. But, as revealed in the final issue, these four were all brought together by the sociopathic Artisan, who wished to seize control over a Wraith, a member of an ancient warrior race, and orchestrated both of them being attached via the lock alongside an addict and a child. The Wraith conceded allowing the other three machines' subconsciouses to inhabit his body, enabling The Artisan to immediately take control and set out to overthrow the civilization he despises.
One would think the story would pick up right from there, but it instead tosses a curveball with a new pair of characters. Readers are still filled in on what happened to the Wraith—it became the ruler of its own planet in about a week—but we don't see them again until the opening issue's final panels. The story instead spends most of its time with two members of the Resolve Class (i.e. assassins) tasked with taking out the Wraith.
Ramondelli once again brings an incredible amount of depth, personality and humanity to these new characters despite their metallic, jagged designs. The pair bicker like an old married couple at first, until you realize one is suffering from a form of Alzheimer's while the other is dead set on finding a cure. The brief fight scene the pair experiences in a bar also displays how Ramondelli never lets the unique robotic designs hinder his storytelling as emotions like anger, confusion and concern all still flash across unmoving faces.
It's far too early to say where The Kill Lock will go from here, but The Artisan Wraith was able to produce an excellent issue without its titular (and best) character present for 98% of the story. One issue in and this series is every bit as excellent as its predecessor.
Published by IDW Publishing
On March 9, 2022
Written by Livio Ramondelli
Art by Livio Ramondelli
Letters by Shawn Lee
Cover by Livio Ramondelli