DEFOE: 1666 – GRAPHIC NOVEL REVIEW

DEFOE: 1666 - GRAPHIC NOVEL REVIEW

Defoe: 1666
Written by Pat Mills
Artwork by Leigh Gallagher
Published by Rebellion

With the start of the new series of Defoe in 2000ad, what better way than now to get aquainted or even re-aquainted with the previous story thus far? This trade consists of the first two arcs originally serialised in 2000ad, ‘1666’ and ‘Brethren of the night’. The story is set in an alternate London, in the year 1666. It is two years since the passing of a comet over the capital, and the Great Fire which caused widespread devestation. And from this cauldron of fire and ash the undead ‘reeks’ started to rise, hungry for living flesh. Zombie hunter, Titus Defoe is tasked by the Crown to protect the people from the undead hordes. But it soon dawns upon him that something or someone is guiding the dead. He puts together a band of zombie hunters lead by himself known as the ‘Dirty Dozenne’, with them by his side and help from Sir Isaac Newton and his various contraptions of war, Defoe plans on getting to the bottom of this zombie epidemic.

I must admit it took me a while to get into this collection. But once I did, I was flying through it in no time! The main thing that grasps you immediately is Leigh Gallagher’s black and white artwork. And my, what a thing of beauty it is too. There is no grey tones involved instead black line strokes used to depict shading and depth – and boy does it look magnificent. The sense of atmosphere which Gallagher’s artwork evokes is simply awe-inspiring. Whether the damp squalor of the streets, the towers, the rivers, the skies, or the pungent decay of the ‘reeks’ (Zombies), you feel at times you really are present in London circa 1666 albeit in an alternate reality.

Pat Mills’ writing is also excellent, setting up a London which is both historically sound and fantastical at the same time. For example the class division (Defoe himself is from a working class background, a ‘Leveller’ and later a soldier prior to becoming a zombie hunter), politics, royalty, skullduggery, and basically everything Mills is known for in his writing but with steampunk, horror and magic to add to it. At times it feels like a medieval version of his ABC Warriors – with the Dirty Dozenne very evocative of the Meknificent Seven, albeit a bit more crazier! And he weaves everything together, with twists and thrills aplenty to create a truly ‘fantasmagoric’ experience. Even the language used in the story is a delight to see, words which have long become dormant in the English language. And cameos by historical figures such as Sir Isaac Newton (which I touched upon), King Charles II and so on. The coming together of all this fantastical elements such as magic, popery, flying ‘cars’, big ass weaponary (which could even give James Cameron wet dreams) not to mention the zombies (lead earlier on by the decapitated head of Oliver Cronwell!) and the characters themselves, whether friend or foe – make this story a truly enjoyable read. I am a huge fan of history, horror and steampunk (or pre – steampunk in this case) and I lapped it all up with joyous gusto! And being a born and bred Londoner, it’s always a joy to see London depicted in this interesting and fantastic way in comics, not only Defoe here, but Absalom and From Hell also come to mind.

This is a series which grows in strength, because the 2nd volume (Queen of the Zombies) is even more enjoyable, not to mention the new series (The Damned) which has just started in the pages of 2000ad.

I must also say that the cover art for this trade is absolutely stupendous indeed by Gallagher. Those interested in learning more about how he went about designing the cover should check out this awesome entry in his blog:

http://leighgallagherart.blogspot.co.uk/2009/08/making-of-defoe-1666-book-cover.html?m=1

Superb stuff!

5/5

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