by Angela Cainen
A few years ago, I backed a Kickstarter for an intriguing little book called ‘Cognition’. I can’t remember which issue it was when I jumped onboard (there were a few), but I continued to back every issue on Kickstarter and the collected trade volume 1.
At first glance Cognition is not my kind of book. It’s a horror book, it’s got the occult in it and it is in black and white with no colour of which to speak. Usually the sort of book I avoid and scroll past.
So, what was different about this one? Well a steam powered automaton inhabited by a human soul and a demonically possessed mouse. Together they fight crime! Well, not quite. They work for B.O.S.S. (British Occult Secret Service) investigating everything from fake psychics to demons intent on stealing souls.
Our heroes are Cal, short for Calibre 507, a steam powered automaton inhabited by a displaced human soul and Sigma, a demon spirit who ended up in a mouse during the same secret project event that caused a human soul to end up in Calibre 507. Now fused together in soul and spirit they are reluctant allies who banter (in a psychic manner few are even aware of) in a hilarious and also at times touching way.
Working for B.O.S.S, an organisation headed by the mysterious and interestingly named Silas Pope, and aided by Hattie Griggs the inventor who came up with the automaton in the first place, who was also recruited by Silas Pope for… reasons. Although other characters appear later, I won’t spoil the delights of them here.
The writing is by Ken Reynolds who also does the lettering (and does it well). Each issue has a sort of mini adventure whilst still building to the larger arc and climax. It’s a really good way of exploring the characters as they deal with mysterious deaths, murder and demons. You get the satisfaction of seeing one thing play out to a conclusion even as it feeds into something else.
The art by Sam Bentley (there are other artists who do the sort of backup stories which further build up the world) is very dark, brooding and atmospheric. It’s perfect for the world and the characters, neatly showing the darkness and light and shadow around everything that takes place.
What I especially love is the way conversations between Cal and Sigma are conveyed as they are taking place psychically there’s some differentiation in the way they are shown to speak, well, think.
The book does get dark. We are dealing with demons and world ending-ness. There’s also a rich weaving in of British mythology which works well in the Victorian setting as we have the old ways still present as interest in the afterlife develops and psychics and contacting the other side becomes in vogue.
Despite the darkness through there is humour, a lot of it coming from Cal and Sigma and their ‘stuck together but can Cal trust Sigma?’ bantering relationship. There’s character development for Hattie too and hints dropped about Silas Pope as well the mysterious project that led the human soul to become Cal. All of which means there’s plenty to explore down the line.
Whilst at the moment there’s not any more of Cognition, Ken Reynolds still has ideas and fingers crossed we’ll see more of this world soon.
For now, check out what Cognition there is and become intrigued with the world and characters. I honestly adore this book and it remains probably my favourite Kickstarter backed project. It has horror, tense moments, mythology, banter and as I said a steam powered automaton and a demonically possessed mouse. What more could you ask for?
You can get the series on
Or you can get it via Ken Reynolds’s website (where you can get a free download of issue #0!)