Indigo Prime: Anthropocalypse by John Smith, Edmund Bagwell, and Lee Carter (graphic novel review).

‘Indigo Prime: Anthropocalypse’ collects three stories from the ‘Indigo Prime’ series that originally appeared in Britain’s greatest comic magazine ‘2000AD’. All are scripted by John Smith and the artists are Lee Carter and Edmund Bagwell, who has sadly departed this vale of tears.

First up is ‘Dead Eyes’ with art by Lee Carter which doesn’t seem to fit here. However, since Indigo Prime is ‘an ultradimensional organisation which oversees the integrity of the millions of parallel universes that make up the Multiverse’, there’s a lot of scope. In this one, they don’t show up until the end. Hopefully, as the book has Indigo Prime written all over it, that’s not too much of a spoiler.

‘Dead Eyes’ is about an evil British Establishment conspiracy to obtain the lost secrets of an ancient underground civilisation. A small role is played by MI6 Agent Harry Nightingale, rumoured to be ‘the man who poisoned John Paul I and made the hit on Lady Di’. The main hero is Danny Redman, a soldier who is gassed when serving in Iraq and wakes up in Porton Down Research Laboratory, England’s no longer very secret top secret biological warfare facility.

Injected with an experimental drug, he has strange visions that lead him to Cumbria and great adventure. Entertaining story and the art was probably excellent but scanned through ten dirty milk bottles as it’s too murky to enjoy. Unless the production staff meant it to look like that, which I consider an error. Why draw beautiful pictures and then make them hard to see?

Danny Redman’s adventures continue in ‘Everything And More’, which is a proper ‘Indigo Prime’ story, though its main purpose seems to be to introduce all the characters. Poor Danny is plunged into different realities to get him used to the idea of the Multiverse but keeps committing suicide because he’s driven crazy. Fixing a new body is easy but the Indigos really want him straightened out as he now exists in a state of quantum flux and could be a useful agent. Getting him sorted out and showcasing the setting seemed to be the main purpose here.

In ‘Anthropocalypse’, Danny has to tame a Bewilderbeast so that its transdimensional transport abilities can be used to rescue Spacesick Steve, an agent stuck in a failing universe. Indigo Prime risk upsetting the Overseers by doing this but saving a comrade takes priority. The Overseers are god-like beings that give artist Edmund Bagwell an opportunity to do some great visuals.

Actually, everything gives artist Edmund Bagwell such an opportunity. Perhaps the whole story is written just for that purpose. I absolutely loved the art! Checking the Internet, I found that Bagwell does a variety of styles but here it’s grand, epic scenes rooted in Kirbyism, except it’s even better than Kirby. The mind-boggling machines, vast beings and glorious pulsating energies are combined with well-drawn human figures and faces.

Kirby used to draw a variety of people but when he went cosmic he settled for one stock stocky figure and one face which was differentiated from others only by hair. Bagwell does the best Kirby of every era, combined with other influences, to make a bright beautiful spectacle. The figures are inked in the style of Chic Stone so they stand out clearly against the complicated backgrounds. It’s all terrific.

The writing was fine but there were too many characters for a first-time reader to get a grip on. One of the flaws with long-running series is that a new audience doesn’t know all the background stuff and can feel a bit lost. In this respect, despite the dark art, the story of ‘Dead Eyes’ worked better because the reader followed Redman. The last two tales lacked that focus on one person. It didn’t really matter and Edmund Bagwell’s art made it all wonderful anyway. Did I mention that I liked it?

Eamonn Murphy

February 2019

(pub: 2000 AD Graphic Novels, 2013. 160 page graphic novel softcover. Prie; £14.99 (UK), $20.31 (US). ISBN: 978-1-78108-111-2)

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