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"If I've got the confidence of the Devil, I'd better start raising a little hell...",
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This review is from: Nikolai Dante Hero of the Revolution (Rebellion 2000ad) (Paperback)
The year is 2676 AD, and in future Russia, it's all coming together for our hero Nikolai Dante. On the battlefield, his revolutionary army sees success against the Imperial forces of tyrannical Tsar Vladimir, and in private, his relationship with Jena Makarov, the Tsar's rebellious daughter, seems stronger than ever. What could possibly ruin things? Only a shadow from the past, a shadow that has sired destruction more than once before...
Yup, it's all building to a head in this, the penultimate volume of The Adventures of Nikolai Dante. This tome sees some of the most dramatic events in the strip's entire history, with some genuinely shocking twists and turns. To borrow a quote from Dante's fellow 2000AD character, Danny Franks: "Like the endgame of a chess match, the pieces are disappearing." And at least one of the pieces that is swept off the board will break your heart.
As Dante volumes go, the key word here has to be `epic', in its truest sense. Throughout the collection, the stakes are higher, the victories greater and the losses more devastating. As a strip, Dante has always had a solid emotional core, but here writer Robbie Morrison, entirely on top of his game, hammers home the highs and lows. What follows is a master-class in manipulating the reader's emotions through skilful use of grand spectacle, smaller-scale horror, and the culmination of plot strands which have been simmering for over a decade. If you've been following the strip to date, it's a given that for the duration of `Heroes Be Damned' in particular, your jaw will seldom be far from the floor.
As ever, art is provided by the contrasting pair of co-creator Simon Fraser and seasoned war-horse John Burns. While their styles couldn't be more different, both are remarkable illustrators with their own particular strengths, and while my personal preference is for Fraser (it's his character, after all), there's no denying that Burns also excels. In fact, his depiction of Jena Makarov dolled-up as a temporary crew-member of the mobile House of Sin is not one that will be easily forgotten. Fraser meanwhile shows his mastery of both dramatic action set-pieces and facial expressions, particularly in the traumatic chaos that ensues during Tsar Vladimir's trial, and especially in the aftermath episode `A Farewell To Arms'. Whilst the likes of Marvel Comics frequently promise that "nothing will ever be the same again" (until everything is re-set 6 months later), `A Farewell To Arms' shows that in the world of Dante, such claims have to be taken seriously.
In short then, an absolutely pivotal instalment in the saga of Dante, which only leaves the reader eagerly anticipating the grand climax of the strip in the next and final volume. If there's one thing we can all be sure of though... Dante's going out with a bang!