Sunday, December 30, 2007

Devlin Waugh: Swimming in Blood – review

Writer: John Smith

Artists: Sean Phillips, Siku & Michael Gaydos

First Published: 2004 – anthology

Contains spoilers

When I was younger I used to love 2000 AD, in fact I had a large number of the original comics and their loss involves a sad tale of a (dearly missed) relative and a misguided trip to a charity shop. Perhaps that had something to do with the fact that I had stopped getting the comic and, as a result of no longer getting it, I lost track of some of the characters that were later introduced.

One such character was Devlin Waugh and I think to describe him I can do no better than quote from this anthology: “He is, in fact, a hedonist… a languorous upper-class misfit, a fop, an ex-public schoolboy with a neat line in sarcasm. A lounge lizard. Imagine Noel Coward as played by Arnold Schwarzenegger and that’s about as near to the mark as you can get.

“Over the years, Devlin’s sense of fair play has eroded away, and now Devlin will go to any ends to achieve success. He’s viciously cutting, callous and unsympathetic… essentially a misanthropist… He’s hard…”

From the Judge Dredd universe, Devlin, in the first story in the anthology, is a Vatican operative who is sent to an underwater prison as pre-cogs have warned that something is to happen. The something is a breakout of vampirism amongst the prisoners. This first story is very satisfying and is followed by a short strip and two longer strips, plus two prose short stories.

The other stories take in various occult phenomena, but the presence of vampirism is always there. The vampires themselves are not exactly what we are used to, as Devlin tells us, “All those mealy-mouthed aphorisms about garlic and crucifixes and running water… It’s the most absolute tosh you know. The vampire species has advanced enormously since the middle ages… The ravening predators we know today are far more difficult to kill than their predecessors. In fact they’re very nearly unstoppable.” We do discover that sunlight effects them as does a higher calibre shotgun aimed at the head.

The second longer story is almost not a Devlin Waugh story at all, he only appears in the final act and to all intents and purposes it is a Dredd story… though if you are a fan of Dredd that is no bad thing. However, the thing that makes the majority of this anthology is Waugh himself, his rapier wit and his quintessentially, and stereotypically, English sensibilities.

The artwork is good, mainly in colour bar the third large story. In the Dredd orientated story the habit of putting the frames over a two page spread can be a little confusing in graphic novel format, but is nothing too showstopping.

All in all, an excellent graphic adventure. Many thanks to Mo, who alerted me to Waugh's existance, and to Crabstix who got me the volume for Christmas. 7 out of 10.

No comments: