It’s the end of the world as we know it. Another apocalypse, regardless of the cause, has left the Earth a wasteland where mankind strives to survive underground leaving other forms of evolved life to claim the scorched world above.
Fighting for his own part of the Kingdom, Gene the Hackman and his humanised canine pack go on a walk-around in an attempt to protect Antarchtcy from the swarms of insect-like Them. His orders come from The Masters, also known as Two-Feet-Who-Walk-On-The-Ground. In his subsequent adventures, he and the reader uncover some of the hidden secrets of what this brave new future world actually is.
Dan Abnett, whose imagination frequently reached beyond the stars in adventures for Marvel’s current crop of cosmic superheroes, admits that he developed Kingdom out of his own desire to create a heroic fantasy with blade-yielding savagery and humanised beasts, all set in Earth’s unspecified future. Having put his own twist to some of 2000 AD’s battle-weary lone heroes such as Rogue Trooper, Sinister Dexter and Durham Red, he’s now produced his own survival epic.
There is a touch of Conan The Barbarian alongside Planet Of The Apes, Animal Farm and all those ’50s mutated monster sci-fi flicks, but he’s also playfully borrowed the names of writers and actors, transforming them into members of this new breed of dog soldiers. Gene The Hackman may be the inspired leader uttering battle-cries such as ‘Tougher and Tough’ and ‘Get Whet’, but there’s also Maryan Faithful, Tod of Much Slaughter, Ginny Woolf and Val Kilmore.
Richard Elson, having worked on Judge Dredd, and co-creator of both Atavar and Kingdom with Dan, shapes the vision of the beastmen and bug monsters with deftly-drawn grittiness and, in the case of the second tale, with rich warmth and colour too in his depiction of people.
The two tales in this volume give shape to this scorched earth existence. The first, Kingdom, introduces Gene and his pack, who all subsequently fall in battle leaving him the lone survivor, rescued by his newly-awoken human masters, exposing a few truths of what actually happened nearly 2,000 years previously. The second tale, The Promised Land, finds Gene becoming protector of a small farming community and, whilst he befriends young Leezee, he also discovers the disturbing truth of mind-controlling tick-things. Adventures that prove he’s Hackman by name, Hackman by nature.
Kingdom may be the mutant offspring of many previous far-flung futures, but it’s far from derivative. It delights in its undiluted action and the playful satire it trails in its bloodied wake. Get whet with enjoyment, indeed.
30 January 2009