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Let's Talk of Kings and Kingdoms

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Introducing the Kirby cult, acid noir in Kingdom Of The Flies and the second DREDD review.

Kingdom of the ignorant

In these end of days, Belgium has had its own Innocence Of Muslims affair. On saturday  the 16th of September, the headquarters of quality newspaper De Standaard was besieged by a horde of angry Jack 'The King' Kirby fans from across the world. It seems that, after all the trouble the Jack Kirby Estate went through to get it right, Kirby's legacy is still being defiled by the horde of non-believers seated at the helm of the cultural appendix of the left wing newspaper mob. The mishap occurred in an article stating the importance of yet another major character death at superhero conglomerate Disney Marvel Comics called Charles Xavier, leader of the X-Men. All went initially well with Kirby being described as the co-plotter of the original Uncanny X-Men superhero comic, a statement of which  the Jack Kirby Estate would have been especially proud of after years of legal battles. However things fell apart a few paragraphs later when Stan Lee was defined as the penciller of Uncanny X-Men. A large part of the Kirby flash mob that demolished the offices of De Standaard is still at large.

Kingdom of acid noir

I don't often spotlight comics that have already been translated for the english language market but this one bears some repeating. King Of The Flies by Mezzo & Pirus is one hell of a hardcore comic. It is noir on acid, dark and unrelenting. It is one of the most thorough examinations of the cimmerian darkness the human species can dwell on and it will hit you square in the chest. King Of The Flies 2 : Origin Of The World is maybe even better than its original and though it bears the number 2 it can just as well be read on its own.

On top of all this, the art by Pirus reflects the story perfectly or more appropriate the art dives into equal levels of depth and darkness. Part Charles Burns, part underground, part Paul Gulacy and part EC Comics; the ink is thrown on the pages with buckets sparing out the frail and scarred human figures. And the ones that do look pretty? They're scarred even worse on the inside.

Mezzo & Piro succesfully merge the European and American comic styles in story and art creating an altogether new beast, albeit one with horns and a nebulous outlook on life in the suburbs. Origin Of The World is a set of vignettes focussing on youngster Eric who displays a rather... amoral view on life and relations. Everyone sucked into his orbit gets dragged down by the gravity of his propensity for emotional violence.  

Oh and remember the guy in the skeleton suit that died in part 1? He's back. No, really. If you like crime comics or comics about the human condition, you simply must read this comic.

King Of The Flies 2 : Origin Of The World is published in dutch by Sherpa and in english by Fantagraphics. Click here for an extended preview.

Kingdom of the blind

Where Dredd Vs Death tackled the horror genre, the second story in the DREDD novel collection Kingdom Of The Blind by David Bishop takes the full out action movie route. The story concentrates around a gathering of judge emissaries from different city-states across the globe coming together to discuss an extradition treaty between the cities. At the same time, a crime boss steps out of the shadows to blackmail the Mega-City One and sabotage the city-states' conference.

Though having served as the editor of the Judge Dredd Megazine for over ten years and being responsible for the discovery of major artistic talent as Frank Quitely, Simon Fraser and Dean Ormston; David Bishop is best known for his novels featuring popular characters. He has written down into prose the adventures of cultural icons like Judge Dredd, Nikolai Dante and Doctor Who since 1993. Kingdom Of The Blind is not one of his better outings though, the main drive being the ideas behind the story instead of the story itself. 

The introduction of judges from other city-states like Ciudad Barranquilla, Brit-Cit, Hondo City and East-Meg Two ups the ante considerably on the stakes with especially the corrupt Ciudad Barranquilla - a corrupt judge corps has turned it into a criminal safe have  - being a challenge since this city-state has a lot to lose by an extradition agreement. This plot runs parrallel with the rise of Jesus Bludd, a seemingly honest businessman but in reality a criminal mastermind keeping his hands clean to the extreme not in the least helped by a rogue ruthless psyker and sexbomb called  Kara. His plan to blackmail Mega-City One with 20th century weapons is a nice throwback to Reaganomics but the two storylines never seem to gell. Bishop concentrates mainly on the Bludd plot while leaving the reader hungry for the confrontational promise between the different judges. Furthermore, the gathering of judges is seems inconsequential for the Bludd storyline adding more doubts to its usefullness apart from being just a bloody good idea.

The Bludd storyline itself is riddled with plotholes not the least being the Judge Dredd manhunt and the Wally Squad operative. Though Bishop maintains a fairly high speed in the proceedings, it all feels a bit too much by the numbers. The confrontation build up between Dredd and Bludd / Kara also leads to an anticlimax and well... a bit of a dud. Bishop tries to add a sublayer of meaning to the story of in the guise of chaos vs order and the individual's existence in an absurd reality like the Mega-Cities but it all falls flat and even his breezy prose can't rescue the downfall of both Bludd and the story.

So after the great Dredd Vs Death, Kingdom Of The Blind is a letdown by being a straightforward action tale with good ideas that ultimately lead to nowhere.

DREDD is published by 2000 AD & Abaddon Books. It is a paperback edition counting 704 pages and is available in stores right now.

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