The premise of Beast King is that a couple of scientists who work for some unnamed secret laboratory in Fort Worth are experimenting with gene splicing rather unsuccessfully. It’s mentioned early in the story that previous attempts all eventually became more super-powered beasts than human and turned on their creators.
The complex moral issue of using genetic enhancement for military purposes is also addressed in the same conversation about the perceived failing experiment. The failure is revealed to be because the test subjects were all grown adults. The scientists doing the bulk of the research also happen to be an item and expecting parents. From here, the story jumps forward eight years to reach the protagonist Jake, the Beast King.
The pseudoscience, which is a trend in comics and superhero movies these days, explains that Jake had his DNA modified in the womb. “He was able to grow with the extra DNA as if it were his own,” explains the unnamed mother as the lab technicians are watching a small child lifting a steel lab desk.
As Jake’s parents are gruesomely gunned down by a masked assailant that evening, the last chunks of the backstory are told, with Jake starting his journey to become the Beast King.
Jumping in time again, now a decade, Jake is left in the care of the lab technician who suggested the research be used for military applications, who Jake refers to as Uncle and not too surprisingly has a Temple of Doom-looking obstacle course. Uncle also somehow owns an RPG that is shot at Jake during training on his property in a rural part of Fort Worth. Though never mentioned by name, the area looks a little like it’s near the Tarrant/Joshua county line.
Jake leaves the compound to go into the city. Along the way, he stops a bus from hitting a little girl with his bare hand that temporarily transforms into a Wolfman-looking arm. From here, Uncle sends him on some errands. While picking up the mail, he notices a letter from Anico, the lab his parents worked for, addressed to him. He opens it to learn that Uncle has some dark secrets.
He snoops around and finds a computer with a file labeled “Beast King” –– here he learns that it was Uncle who killed his parents. Jake confronts him and discovers that both can transform into demonic-looking beasts. A bloody battle ensues.
The artwork has that gritty middle-grade DC graphic novel feel to it, which more than makes up for the convoluted yet seen before backstory. My distaste for poorly done and overly drawn-out backstories aside, the first issue of Beast King is a good read and an interesting modern take on the Frankenstein’s monster story.