Tuesday, October 18, 2011

The Bendatti Vendetta

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 The Bendatti Vendetta (Rebellion, 2011).

I must admit that I was very surprised to see a complete collected edition of The Bendatti Vendetta, a series that first appeared in the pages of Judge Dredd Megazine about a decade ago. It's not very long - 12 episodes, comprising three stories, over just 96 pages - but with its creators, Robbie Morrison and John Burns, quite popular from their work on other properties, notably Nikolai Dante, a collection has a hook upon which to hang a little publicity.

While many of Morrison's scripts emphasize character, this is a neat exercise in going plot-first and seeing whether readers will wish to follow. The first episode has all the appearance of the most exciting pre-credits sequences of any action film from the seventies. We don't know who the characters are, but some people have slipped into some mob boss's party and caused almighty havoc, with fisticuffs and bullets flying every which way.

I say this is perfectly suited for John Burns because I perceive him, rightly or wrongly, as an artist most comfortable in the modern age. No matter how well he paints the adventures of Judge Dredd or Nikolai Dante, something about his work on those strips never completely gels for me, particularly in conveying a sense of place. His Mega-City One is rarely more than dark alleyways, and his future Russia is often just bombed-out war zones. But The Bendatti Vendetta is clearly set in the humdrum of our world, and when Burns brings this to life, it's vastly more vivid and exciting. Well, it's less our world than our recent history - it doesn't appear that Burns has updated his reference material in many years, but since the violent iconography within the script screams "seventies action film," it doesn't matter, he's still exactly right for the artwork. Put another way, I keep expecting Ian Hendry and Britt Ekland to make supporting appearances.

We never learn very much about them, despite scenes and sequences set in their headquarters, but the Bendatti are sort of a reverse Mafia, handling personal cases of vengeance and retribution. Each of the stories is incredibly satisfying, but despite the inclusion of the full series, it still feels incomplete, like these tales were setting up something involved and intricate that never came. Or perhaps it just hasn't come yet. Who knows, maybe with Nikolai Dante coming to an end in early 2012, there will be a chance for Morrison and Burns to return to this and give it the teeth it seemed like it really wanted to show. Recommended.

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