Writer Alex Paknadel’s pitch for All Against All is simple yet wildly imaginative: “What if Tarzan were the xenomorph from Alien?” Its very premise takes things you’re familiar with and violently flips them upside down. We’ve seen quite a few stories about scientists holding a monster in captivity in hopes that it will provide them with more efficient ways of killing things, only for the specimen to escape and give the scientists a very gruesome and very personal demonstration of how deadly it is. However, All Against All asks: “Do the scientists have to be humans? If so many of our stories conclude that ‘man is the real monster’, then wouldn’t another species come to the same realization?”
The species in question are “the Operators”: extraterrestrials that are essentially just brains with eyes and tendrils. The Operators live inside of bodies “cobbled together from inferior species”. One of the Operators’ scientists, Director B’Tay, is in charge of studying such creatures in artificial biomes in hopes of using the bodies of the most dangerous ones as weapons to win a war. B’Tay is assigned to study the dominant species of Earth, who have proven their destructive capability by completely annihilating all life on their planet- including themselves. Thanks to a vault full of genetic samples, B’Tay and his team have been able to recreate a little slice of Earth (from before its final extinction) aboard his spaceship, including a single human living among the wildlife. This dangerous beast has B’Tay doubting if there’s really any “control” in his “controlled environment”…
There’s something beautifully Twilight Zone about this creature feature where the monster is one of us. It’s like Paknadel has tapped into the secret final form of centuries worth of tales about man and nature. There’s something so satisfying about seeing familiar pieces placed in unexpected parts of a familiar scenario, and this first issue gets you pumped for the ape-raised man inevitably breaking free and slaughtering his captors.
Caspar Wijngaard’s art gives the story a wild, punk-rock edge to it. But amid the explosions of vibrant colors and wild sprawls of vegetation and technology, there’s a tightly-controlled chaos to the inhabitants of this savage universe. Wijngaard brings astonishing intricacy to every character.
Operators are haunting in their skeletal techno-organic bodies, but their eyes possess a very human expressiveness that makes them relatable on a primal level. The creatures in the Earth habitat are terrifyingly fierce and grizzled. You can practically smell their rotting wounds and blood-soaked fur- looking at them is enough to make your skin crawl in disgust. And then there’s the human, ironically referred to as “Helpless” by the Operators, who have no idea what they’re in for. We mostly see him in a flashback, but we do get a dramatic buildup to the apex predator he’s become in the present. Paknadel and Winjngarrd expertly use carcasses from sport hunting and cryptic cave paintings to hype Helpless up as an otherworldly horror so that when he finally emerges from the shadows in all his naked glory, he feels like a proper monster.
All Against All is off to an astounding start. This first issue effortlessly pairs worldbuilding with a sense of sickening dread, and it looks absolutely beautiful doing it. It’s a savage, brutal masterpiece- apex horror- that you need to check out.