Neil Gaiman’s Teknophage Vol. # 1 (graphic novel review)

June 26, 2017 | By | Reply More

Big picture first. ‘Teknophage’ is one of several comics published back in the early 1990s by Laurie Silvers and Mitchell Rubenstein, who created the Sci-Fi Channel. Comics were booming and they thought the time was ripe for it. Neil Gaiman, a rising star then, a superstar now, was invited to come up with concepts to be scripted by others. The result was three titles, ‘Teknophage’, ‘Mr. Hero’ and ‘Lady Justice’, which tied together one big cosmic story in a way pioneered by Jack Kirby with his ‘New Gods’ epic. When bust followed boom, they all went under but have been reissued in book form by the enterprising people at NBM/Papercutz under their Super Genius imprint.

Teknophage Vol. # 1 opens with a story from Wheel Of Worlds # 0, plotted by Neil Gaiman and John Ney Reiber. This introduces us to a desolate and desperate world called Albion, where Adam Cain, Mr. Hero, Lady Justice and the Teknophage meet in a slum and swap stories. It’s an odd introduction but sort of sets the stage.

After that, the comic is all about Teknophage, a devil of a villain. He was born into the dominant reptilian species on the world of Kalighoul and killed all his rivals. When apes evolved into humans, he found them particularly tasty and, consuming their souls along with their bodies, gave him long life. Then he discovered wormholes and could travel between dimensions to alternate versions of his home planet: Avalon, Albion and Earth. He also discovered that humans could be easily tempted to evil acts by lust for wealth and had great fun with that, building a vast commercial empire.

After the introductory tale, there are two longer stories divided into instalments. The first five issues of ‘Teknophage’ were written by Rick Veitch, pencilled by Bryan Talbot and inked and coloured by Angus McKie. The bright, gaudy colouring is a major factor in the art. The story is about nasty capitalism as the Teknophage runs a gigantic, evil corporation which chews people up and spits them out, often literally. His useful heavy mob are the Vulgar Bootmen, robots powered by human souls He roams the world in his mobile office block which is powered by a furnace using a mixture of steam hydraulics and alchemy. Various underlings compete to impress him. My favourite was Baron Wasteland who salutes his master by thumping his chest and shouting ‘Hideous Rex’. The white collar workers are kept going with Koffup, a brown drink that contains adrenaline. There’s a Sublimey machine to broadcast subliminal messages on television and lure people into sin. These neat touches add depth and flavour to the complex plot.

Issues #6-10 of ‘Teknophage’ take a different tack under writer Paul Jenkins and artist Al Davison. In this section, there is a more religious tone to the proceedings. The Teknophage himself is a sort of god of evil, though he lays no claim to creating the worlds. There are a few oddballs who think he can be opposed, inspired by a Christ-like figure who’s been kept in the lowest dungeons for the past few centuries. A tonsured monk, a nun and several others plan to break into Tek’s headquarters and overthrow him. It’s another good story.

The art is of that style pioneered by ‘2000AD’ comic and so is the visceral violence, nudity and torture it conveys. Alan Moore led the way back then. In their zeal to burst the bounds of traditional comics and the Comics Code Authority, these pioneers were inevitably excessive so be warned this is not suitable for children. For adults, it’s pretty solid fare. You get over 200 pages of well-crafted story along with informative articles explaining how it all came about. Kudos to Papercutz for bringing this back from the vaults.

Eamonn Murphy

June 2017

(pub: NBM/Papercutz, 2015. 232 page graphic novel softcover. Price: $14.99 (US), $20.50 (CAN), £13.99 (UK). ISBN: 978-1-62991-277-6)

check out website: www.nbmpub.com/

Category: Books, Comics, Superheroes

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About the Author ()

Eamonn Murphy lives in the west country and grew up reading Asimov, Heinlein, lots of other old SF and Marvel Comics. After many years experimenting with alcohol he has settled down to the quiet life with a nice lady, a big garden and a dog but finds time to write reviews for crowsnest and a few short stories, some of which even get published in obscure magazines. His horror novel 'Arnos Hell' set in a Bristol graveyard is available on Amazon as a kindle book.

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