Intelligent, gripping, and visually stunning, Dawn Runner is another instant hit from two of the best creators in comics today.

Review: DAWNRUNNER #1 – Ghosts in the Machine

From contemporary comics auteur Ram V (These Savage Shores, The Many Deaths of Laila Starr) and artistic phenom Evan Cagle (Dark Tropic, Superman and the Authority) comes a cerebral take on kaiju stories with Dawnrunner #1. Featuring colors by Dave Stewart and lettering by Aditya Bidikar, this debut issue takes the standard tropes of Pacific Rim-style monster stories and injects a devious twist at the hands of corporate brutality. With a compelling script and staggering visual work, Dawnrunner is one of the best new titles of the year so far.

“A century ago a portal opened over Central America and the Tetza that came through changed our world. Now the world bends all its effort to making the Iron Kings–great mechs that must battle the Tetza for humanity’s continued survival in gladiatorial combat. Anita Marr is the greatest of the pilots and is chosen to pilot a new prototype that could change the tide in humanity’s favor.”

Writing & Plot

Ram V has always had a habit of injecting resonant themes into a myriad of genres, and he does it again here in Dawnrunner #1. In this future setting, Earth was invaded by a race of massive monsters called the Tetza. As humanity struggled for dominance, they discovered the best way to fight these massive beasts was by getting up to their level – mecha style. As this combat approach proved effective, corporations decided to make these battles a form of entertainment, selling both weapons and circuses to profit off of our near damnation. One company unveils a prototype, supposedly the most advanced mech yet. It’s new technological advantage proves to be an unsettling and compelling twist that absolutely sells the rest of the series. Ram V succeeds with Dawnrunner by taking a concept that feels familiar and trope-y on the outset and injecting it with some classic corporate greed and existential dread. The opening half of this issue feels like the dozens of other kaiju-fighting comics that have come out over the last few years. Even with Ram’s concise narrative voice and ear for naturalistic dialogue, Dawnrunner doesn’t read as anything particularly special on its opening. However, once the story hits its larger concepts – capitalists constantly inventing new ways to profit off of war and death – this comic really becomes something incredible. The Kaiju genre, starting with Godzilla in 1954, has always been about having a thematic focus even larger than the monsters themselves. Here in the West, we forget that aspect and lean in to the spectacle. It’s both reassuring and totally unsurprising to see Ram V leaning into the more meaningful side of the genre while still allowing for kickass action to take place.

MFR ON YOUTUBE (latest video)
Help us reach 5K Subs!

Art Direction

Dawnrunner #1 may also be the best looking kaiju comic of the last few years thanks to the phenomenal visual work of Evan Cagle. His fluid animations, expressive character work, and hyper-detailed environmental and biomechanical design makes for a comic issue you won’t stop just staring at. Cagle emulates a sort of multi-dimensional look with his pencils, thanks to how he handles shading. He showcases indirect lighting and shadow with intense hatching, and this is usually seen in the background of most panels. With the characters in the foreground having very little shading by comparison, he’s able to craft a sense of scale and distance that’s difficult to accomplish in a 2D medium. Cagle’s design work adds to both the sense of scale and alien-like aspects of this world. His approach is comparable to the work of Katsuhiro Atomo’s on Akira, Hiroya Oku with Gantz, and even reminds me of Nick Dragotta of East of West fame. Cagle carries the story along at a careful pace, allowing for the plot to simmer and intensify and the action to hit with a hammer when it finally arrives. Industry veteran Dave Stewart give life to Cagle’s pencils with phenomenal effect. Stewart’s tonal approach gives the whole comic a sort of uncanniness, with his hues adding an eerie sci-fi horror element to this broken future. His work adds a menacing tone to every interaction, from the sanitized office spaces of CEO’s, to the unforgiving jungles and decaying technologies of this Earth to be. His colorwork on the monster in this issue sticks out as well, with a pale, flat pink selling the impression that this beast doesn’t belong on this world. Aditya Bidikar once again delivers solid lettering, with his SFX work feeling like an artistic exclamation point over an environment that looks as though it has shunned art to make war. Dawnrunner is a staggering comic issue in terms of visual storytelling.


Dawnrunner#1 is well on track to be the best comic book of its kind. Ram V delivers a script that takes the familiar kaiju-fighting tropes and blends them with a sharp political edge mixed with a cerebral sci-fi/horror twist. The visuals from Evan Cagle and Dave Stewart are nothing short of astounding, with a use of lighting and scale seldom seen in the medium. Be sure to grab this phenomenal debut when it hits shelves on March 20th!

Justin Munday
Justin Munday
Reader and hoarder of comics. Quietly sipping coffee, reading, and watching sci-fi in Knoxville, TN.
Intelligent, gripping, and visually stunning, Dawn Runner is another instant hit from two of the best creators in comics today.Review: DAWNRUNNER #1 - Ghosts in the Machine