PrintE-mail Written by Julian White

Review: Indigo Prime@ Anthropocalypse / Author: John Smith / Artist: Lee Carter, Edmund Bagwell / Publisher: 2000 AD / Release Date: April 11th

For the uninitiated, Indigo Prime is an 'ultradimensional organization which oversees the integrity of the millions of parallel realities that make up the multiverse.' When a reality goes 'toxic', it's their job to step in. It's over 20 years since these guys blazed a trail through the pages of 2000 AD, but now they're back in this collection of three mind-bending, time-warping stories.

Original writer John Smith is back too, and the first tale, Dead Eyes, is a wonderful demonstration of his gifts. A soldier named Danny gets introduced to the team via a circuitous route when he is bodysnatched from the battlefield into a top secret psi project. From there, things spin into a bewildering melange of government conspiracy thriller and Bulwer-Lytton-style hollow earth romance, complete with telepathic Neanderthals. (“It's Stig of the Dump gone nu rave!” Danny exclaims delightedly.) Throughout, the dialogue is hilariously earthy and there's a brilliant array of characters, including some memorably twisted Whitehall types, such as the Minister who's all grumpy because he's missing an orgy at Westminster.

Lee Carter's art matches Smith's words for bizarre energy, but is let down by dull colouring and some rather shadowy reproduction. In the copy we saw, you really have to strain your eyes to see the detail, and in several instances speech balloons emerge from impenetrable murk. For this reason, it's a relief to turn to the other two stories, Everything and More and Anthropocalypse, which are illustrated equally energetically but in much brighter pastel hues by Edmund Bagwell.

Everything and More sees Danny eventually getting to grips with Indigo Prime – a decidedly motley crew whose agents include Dr Crippen and William Burroughs – but not before a number of suicidal freak outs, while the final story is a high-spirited romp through the multiverse as the team try to track down a missing operative named Spacesick Steve and prevent a 'major chronoclysm.' Bagwell's art is almost insanely dynamic here, with panels slashed across double-page spreads. At times the effect is so surreal, it calls to mind the acid-tinged psychedelic SF of Philippe Druillet's Lone Sloane Delirius. As before, the script sparks with clever gags, but it's all perhaps a little bit too smartypants for its own good, and you miss the real-life grit of the first story.

Taken as a whole, though, this is an invigorating and enjoyable collection, packed full of bracingly anarchic humour and visually stunning imagery (and let's hope Carter's very interesting work gets colour-corrected in later imprints so that it can be better appreciated.) More style than substance perhaps, but what style.

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