Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Nikolai Dante: Amerika

What I try to do with reviews at this Bookshelf blog is keep it simple and spoiler-free, and let you know whether I'd recommend you pick up a copy of what I just read. Seems to work okay. This time, a brief review of Nikolai Dante: Amerika (volume nine) (Rebellion, 2009).

When you publish as many fantastic comics as the 2000 AD group of titles have, it must be a real bear figuring out reprint plans. Just balancing the budget of keeping proven classics in print while collecting the new hits of the comic's current platinum age for new readers must be a bear on its own, and I'm sure the constant demands of yokels like me and the rest of the fans for personal favorites to make it to bookshelves is a considerable distraction. But I'll tell you, the best decision that anybody in charge of collected editions at 2000 AD ever made was to keep up with Nikolai Dante, the best comic of the last decade.

"Amerika," the ninth book in the soon-to-be-concluding series, collects the 27 episodes that appeared in 2008 and 2009. It was published just about a year ago and very neatly formed a nice recap before the series resumed this past January. Since then, a couple of dozen further episodes have run, and presumably these will all either be collected in a tenth book next spring before the final run of episodes, or else the tenth book will be a final, oversized volume wrapping up the series? The smart money's on Nikolai Dante concluding in 2011; it's just a question of how many episodes it will take to get to the end.

So around half of this book is taken up with the titular story, in which Dante, still working as "the sword of the tsar," is sent to New York to put down the smack on some uprising among the populace there. It turns out that our planet's alien enemy, the often-overlooked White Army, has been using the region as a bridgehead in their plans for conquest. Without giving too much away, the story ends with Dante leaving Vladimir the Conqueror and raising up that army of thieves and whores that he spent the eighth book secretly assembling, setting the stage for his big guerrilla war to begin.

Everything in here is just flatly amazing. The story is by Robbie Morrison, and he's just got this story twisting and turning into surprising and wild directions every time you blink. Artwork duties are shared between Simon Fraser and John Burns, with a special four-part contribution by Paul Marshall focusing on Nikolai's dangerous half-sister Lulu. Excellent work all around, especially by Fraser, who turns the climax of the main story from a stunner into something unforgettable, but everybody is bringing their best in these stories. If you've not read Dante before, then your library is nowhere close to complete. All nine books are highly recommended.

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