The Mighty Tharg bestowed this great gift upon me after my letter was published in the Prog (1827). And what a gift it is too – one of the most enjoyable and hilarious comic that i’ve had the previlage of reading!
I was familar with Nikolai Dante for a while now, and was conscious of the fact that the strip was a fan favourite amongst my fellow Zarjazers, but i never got round to reading it. The thing i noticed immediately was the line-up of talented names on the cover; Robbie Morrison and Simon Fraser of course, but also Charlie Adlard, Chris Weston and Henry Flint.
As for the story well what can i say? It was an absolute blast from the first page to the last! I was thrilled by the opening stories ‘Nikolai Dante’ and ‘The Romanov Dynasty’ where we learn about Dante’s origins; the rivalry between the two main ruling dynasties; Tsar Vladimir (of the House of Makarov) and Dmitri Romanov (of the Romanov Dynasty), and i was howling with laughter in others, such as ‘The Full Dante’ and ‘Russia’s Greatest Love Machine’! tears of joy and laughter streaming down my face at the rip roaring exploits of Nikolai Dante; lovable rogue, serial womaniser, swashbuckling hero and Russian revolutionary with a heart of gold!
As well as the ruling elite, we are introduced to other key (and memorable) characters such as Jena (daughter of the Tsar) and her intriguing love/hate relationship with Dante, not to mention his hilarious attempts at trying to woo her. We also meet the psychotic offspring’s of Dmitri Romanov (who we learn is also Dante’s father), and other smaller groups such as The Devil’s Martyrs; a group who worship Rasputin and are notable for the fact both the men and women of their group are heavily bearded! In ‘Moscow Duellist’ we meet them again (after Dante’s hilarious encounter with one of them in a preceding story) on top of an assortment of other hilarity.
The vivid setting of Dante’s world is briliantly realised by the artists mentioned, it is more different than the Mega City of Judge Dredd or Great Britian of Strontium Dog. It’s reminiscent of steam punk stories but different because of the futuristic setting, ie Russia circa 2666. I loved the awesome vehicle and building/ architecture designs (a jalgemation of the past and future) such as the flying Steed’s and the Tsar’s floating Imperial Palace. All of these amazing imagery was very evocative of Moebius’ work, of which The Incal comes to mind. We even have the Crest – an alien symbiote/ technology on our protagonists arm which speaks to him a la the mysterious Incal inside John DiFool in Moebius’ mentioned work. That is one of the aspects of Nikolai Dante which i loved; a sort of blending of the old world with sci-fi/ comedy with a sprinkle of Moebius for good measure. Henry Flint’s art on the last story entitled ‘The Gulag Apocalyptic’ was especially evocative of the late French artist. Simon Fraser’s artwork was also a joy to behold, the two page spread of ‘The Face of the Empire’ in The Moscow Duellist was simply stupendous to behold.
Awesome stuff indeed.
I thoroughly enjoyed reading this trade, it was a great introduction to Nikolai Dante and his many hilarious romantic and adventure filled exploits. And on this evidence, i can say that the fun is just begining.