'Dawnrunner' highlights the connection between a pilot and her Iron King mech while also providing an interesting look at how a war can turn into spectacle and competition.

Review: DAWNRUNNER #1 — Exploring New Connections

Dawnrunner #1 by writer Ram V, artist Evan Cagle, colorist Dave Stewart, and letterer Aditya Bidikar tells the story of a world ridden with kaiju. The Tetza arrived one day through a portal, and are as big as they are indestructible. The human race threw everything they had at them, but the best way to keep them out was to build a giant wall. Now, to hunt them down, giant mechs named Iron Kings have been created.

The story follows Anita Marr, a famous Iron King pilot who takes no pride in the glorification of this war against the Tetza that’s being fought. The battles are filmed and shown to the people by Andro Lestern of the Cordonware Corporation. Anita gets to the base, and is greeted by another Iron King pilot named Xander who decides to poke fun at her. She puts him in his place, and it’s clear that he’s just upset that he’s not as famous or important as her. After a Tetza that’s been tracked for a while finally emerges, Anita is sent in to fight it, piloting a new Iron King prototype named Dawnrunner. Her connection to the Iron King, however, may be more than she anticipated it to be.

First look at Moshaus One
First look at Moshaus One

Ram V expertly displays his worldbuilding skills here. The world the story takes place in feels well thought out, and is explained to you in bite sized chunks that keeps anything from getting too confusing. The issue has this great pacing that makes it easy to follow, but doesn’t shy away from introducing a lot at once in a delicate and impressive manner. We see the world through the eyes of Anita, but V doesn’t have this book conventionally narrated. There’s no internal monologue; instead, the story is mostly told through dialogue. The only time it isn’t is when the history of this world is explained to the reader in the issue’s opening pages.

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While Anita is the protagonist that the reader is invested in, we’re cycled through multiple points of view. Anita poses the questions that V wants us to be asking ourselves. She isn’t in awe of all this as many of the others around her are. She wonders why fighting off these invaders is now done for sport, and why more don’t realize a war is going on. Are we to root for the Iron Kings? Or do we share Anita’s wonder of why a spectacle has been made out of this?

V does an excellent job of structuring this issue. The writer is a master of subtext, and does a wonderful and consistent job of saying more with less. Every line either deepens our understanding of a character or works to further our perception of the story. It subtly lays out how you should feel about each party involved, while also being heavy handed in explaining how you should feel towards the seemingly less important characters.

Anita Marr's Introduction
Anita Marr’s Introduction

Evan Cagle assists V by providing incredibly detailed looks at each of these characters. Every muscle on a person’s face is well defined, and the intention with each word spoken is clear. From Xander’s cockiness to Anita’s retrospective manner, it’s told to us through the looks on their faces. There’s so much depth behind each character’s eyes that Cagle transfers from script to page. It’s laid out well for us. Not just to mention that, but the designs of this world are nothing to sneeze at either. The suits that the Iron King pilots are fitted with, as well as the facilities around the city, seem detailed and carry personalities of their own. Cagle has a great understanding of the story told with an exact vision for how it should look.

The designs for the Tetza themselves are also very well done. While we only see one in this issue, we get a good idea of what these hulking and reptilic beasts are capable of, and how they’ve been causing problems for as long as they have. In response to the Tetza, however, we also have these beautifully designed mechs in the forms of the Iron Kings. Dawnrunner itself looks intricate and gargantuan. It’s an incredibly flexible mech with hidden blades, and who knows what other kinds of surprises. Everything drawn carries unique purpose and personality.

The world of Dawnrunner would be nowhere near as well defined as it is without Dave Stewart’s coloring complimenting Cagle’s art. The warmth of a sunrise engulfs the beginning of the issue, and the passage of time is clear throughout the issue. As Lestern walks with a colleague named Murali, the sun gleams through the skylights in a way that shines on a confident, egotistical Lestern as he exits. This also leaves Murali, as well as his cautionary words, ignored in a dimmer light.

The Dawnrunner itself has colors mimicking Anita’s own costume, and the speeding backgrounds with flat colors assist in giving us a good idea of just how arduous these battles against the Tetza are. Near the end of the issue, we’re transported to a new location along with Anita. The page transitions wonderfully from the green color initially surrounding her to the red skies of the new and unknown area.

Aditya Bidikar gets intelligently creative with the lettering as well. When a sports radio gives its daily broadcast, the channel number is attached to the panel. In flat-colored panels sprinkled throughout the beginning of this issue, we also have these passages that detail the world and its history as though we ourselves are reading it from their records personally. Near the end of the issue, faded text bubbles also creatively show us how a character isn’t listening, with their mind elsewhere entirely.

With many questions unanswered, this is a great start to this story. There’s plenty of action, worldbuilding, and beautiful art to keep anyone entertained. Dawnrunner #1 sets the stage for what is bound to be the most enthralling mech vs. kaiju story of the year.

Mohamed Malla
Mohamed Malla
I have a strong passion for comics, and I have since I was a kid. I read absolutely anything I can possibly get my hands on, and I love that I can. I'm currently studying screenwriting, as I adore film and television as well.
'Dawnrunner' highlights the connection between a pilot and her Iron King mech while also providing an interesting look at how a war can turn into spectacle and competition.Review: DAWNRUNNER #1 — Exploring New Connections