Luke is halfway through an article he has been writing for months for the blog’. But rather than do any more work on that, he decides to write up a review of the Abnett and MacNeil epic recently reprinted in the Mega Collection.
As published in the Mega Collection volume 54 / Issue 67
Or, as two volumes in the 2000ad graphic novel line
By Dan Abnett, Colin MacNeil, John Paul Bove, Ellie De Ville, Simon Bowland
One of the purposes of the Megazine was the expansion of the “Dreddverse”, but it’s been hit and miss. For every “Devlin Waugh”, you get a “Brit Cit Brute”.
The attempts to expand the interstellar aspects have also fallen a bit flat, or so has been suggested (including by Matt Smith in the introduction to this volume) anyway. Personally, I think that’s a smidge harsh. I liked “Maelstrom” by Robbie Morrison and Colin MacNeil and “The Corps” has been largely dismissed, even by its’ writer Garth Ennis. But again, that was a good romp. But none of them have gone beyond their first series. Interestingly, Colin MacNeil was art droid (or co art droid in the case of “The Corps”) for both those series.
“Insurrection” begins on an MC1 colony world known as K Alpha 61. The colony have repelled an invasion by an alien race known as the Zhind. With no support from the Big Meg itself, the colony Judge Marshals called upon the population of robots, mutants and genetically engineered apes known as “uplifts” to save the colony. As a reward, the uplifts, robots and mutants are granted citizen status.
This doesn’t go down well with MC1. Using the threat of military action, they instruct the colony to rescind this citizen status.
Renaming K Alpha 61 “Liberty” and led by Judge Marshal Karel Luther, the colonists refuse and prepare for battle. The colonists put up a spirited fight utilising whatever tools come to hand to defend their home, but they are overwhelmed by the might and mercilessness of the SJS. Led by Luther, an assorted band of survivors make their escape to pursue a guerilla war.
On the run, they inspire other colony worlds to revolt, and are proven to be a distraction when the Zhind actually do attack. MC1 is unable to prevent the Zhind from razing a colony world, blaming Luther and his insurrectionists for splitting the Big Meg’s forces.
This leads to an epic climax, with the insurrectionists, the SJS and the Zhind facing off on an MC1 colony world.
Cards on the table – although I think he is a good writer, I have never been a great fan of Dan Abnett’s work. I didn’t like his take on “Durham Red”, I quite enjoyed his “Death Head II” and “Authority” runs with Andy Lanning, I think that “Kingdom” is okay, but overrated and “Sinister Dexter” needs to be taken out the back and shot. But “Insurrection” is where all that changed. It’s been suggested that this is a bit too close to Abnett’s Warhammer work and that he has just re purposed strips for that universe for Old Stoney Face’s. Abnett denies this in the interview included in this volume, but there are clear similarities. But who cares when the strip is as strong as this? MC1 judges are usually portrayed as bastards but (bizarrely) sympathetic – they are the guys we as readers back. But here they are totally ruthless and out to suppress any resistance. But it is the characterisation of Luther, the moral ambiguities of his decisions, the effect they have on the cause and his fellow resistance fighters, that is most compelling.
Colin MacNeil’s art is fabulous. He utilises his grey wash style for the first two books, displaying a great sense of design, lots of chunky space suits, ungainly robots and suitably sinister starships. In book 3 the style changes, pencils and inks by MacNeil and grey washes by John Paul Bove. Although the shift is initially disappointing and a little jarring, you soon get used to it.
The Mega Collection’s choices have varied in quality. It’s doing a fair job of collecting and publishing a broad selection of Dreddverse work, but quality ranges from “Red Razors” (which if I am being honest I enjoyed when I first read it 20 + years ago) to the “meh” of Missionary Man to the sublime – this.
“Insurrection” is suitably epic in scale, brutal, uncompromising and doesn’t out stay its’ welcome.