Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Requiem Vampire Knight volume 1: collected gothic perversity from Pat Mills and Olivier Ledroit

Requiem, the most luridly over-the-top, utterly deranged comic book ever published, has finally been collected into a graphic novel for the UK market, having been published in the Francophone world for years.

I’ve written about my love of Requiem before and spent years seeking out old copies of Heavy Metal magazine, the only place you could find the translated version (they always run a new instalment annually around May).

The lack of UK edition until now is shameful, considering Requiem is written by English comics godfather Pat Mills. Mills was the creator of 2000AD and wrote bizarre, visionary and violent comic strips that warped my childhood, like ABC Warriors, Nemesis the Warlock, Slaine and Ro-Busters.

It’s obvious that Requiem allows Mills to explore his rabid obsessions for an adult audience, so all the familiar tropes he explores in 2000AD – magick, reincarnation, religious fanaticism, hypocrisy, imperialism – are turned up to 11 and served with lashings of sex, sado-masochism, ultra-violence and gore.

So what is Requiem about? Put simply, Hell. The primary character is the eponymous Requiem, the reincarnation of Heinrich Augsburg, a Nazi soldier shot on the Eastern Front. Upon his death, he finds himself reborn as a vampire in the infernal world Resurrection.

Everything in Resurrection is perversely reversed, so evil is virtuous and characters grow younger as they age, eventually dwindling to foetuses. The vampires are the elite of the Resurrection social order, reincarnated from particularly monstrous humans. The Emperor Nero, Aleister Crowley, Atilla the Hun and Count Dracula himself are at the pinnacle of society. Their realm is surrounded on all sides by other fiendish nations, so war is never-ending. Which is exactly how the vampires like it, of course.

Tomas de Torquemada is a werewolf; rapists come back as centaurs; weapons scientists are high priests dedicated to burying knowledge; genocidal feminists from the future return as ghoul pirates. In the midst of it all, Requiem grapples with his nature as he attempts to save Rebecca, his Jewish lover who died in the death camps.

Yes, the good return to Resurrection too, born into the bottom end of society as lamiae. Death – as well as life – just isn’t fair.

This premise gives Mills all sorts of ways to amuse himself, as well as giving Ledroit opportunities to create astonishing gothic landscapes and epic battle scenes.

Ultra-dense Mills dialogue, ridiculously delirious art, convoluted plotting and the sheer insanity of the story make Requiem hard to follow at times. I thought I’d understand what the hell was going on better once I found that long-sought-after first episode in Heavy Metal. I was wrong. It was still gloriously bewildering.

Requiem is the ultimate bad trip, the grandest of Grand Guignol. Seek it out and read it, give yourself some gorgeous nightmares.


Steve said...

Weirdly I've been collecting the hardback editions of Mills' masterpiece Charley's War which I read as a child in Battle magazine - still fantastic and surprisingly mcving after all this time.

Anonymous said...

Dude, I'd like to know, if there's a website that i can read Requiem online... Is there any???

Tristan said...

Hi - there's a few sites in French with extracts I know of, but none in English - and the latest episode was published in the last issue of Heavy Metal.