Devlin Waugh first graced the pages of the Judge Dredd Megazine in 1992, and proved to be an instant hit with readers, making him the only character to have knocked Dredd himself from the pedestal of ‘Favourite Strip’. Depending on your point of view, the camp homosexual exorcist priest was the unique breed of hero the comics industry needed at the time, or a pithy pastiche of Noel Coward and Arnold Schwarzenegger, played entirely for laughs and attention.
This latest Red Tide trade paperback collects the final half of Devlin’s run, all written by creator John Smith. After being bitten by vampires, our hero is a shadow of his former self, and it takes the titular story for him to get back to true form as he wisecracks and karate chops his way through the undead. It’s an action-packed story, the heroes moving swiftly to the next encounter, although slightly too long in its collected form. Fight follows fight follows fight; in monthly episodes it worked well, but here it feels there’s too much of the same happening in different locations. A twist at the end makes all this forgivable, though, as does Devlin’s banter throughout.
The other stories contained in these 200-plus pages are of equally high quality. Vile Bodies is a hilarious re-introduction to Devlin, filled with outrageous art and one-liners, although it sits jarringly between Red Tide’s prologue and main story. Devlin leaves centre stage in Bite Fight, as focus shifts to an undercover Judge, reminding the reader of Waugh’s place within the Dredd world; art by John Burns harks back to the early annuals, imbuing a warm sense of nostalgia to the tale. All Hell is a Dante-esque team-up with a twist while Innocence and Experience supplies an origin story managing to be amusing, shocking and surprisingly poignant.
The prose story Body and Soul, a cover gallery and sample pages from Jock all complete this solid package, one that will delight not only Devlin Waugh’s fans but also those who had forgotten what a breath of fresh air the character proved to be, and still does so after over two decades.
INFO: DEVLIN WAUGH RED TIDE / WRITER: JOHN SMITH / ARTWORK: SEAN PHILLIPS, COLIN MACNEIL, JOHN BURNS, PETER DOHERTY / PUBLISHER: 2000 AD / RELEASE DATE: JUNE 18TH