Tuesday, 2 July 2013

Red Razors

Mark Millar, Steve Yeowell & Nigel Dobbyn Red Razors (1995)

It's hard to know where to start with this one, the comic book equivalent of a family-size bag of Morrisons' own brand cheese footballs. It's set in that version of twenty-second century Russia in which the Soviet Union endured, as did its furtive fixation with all things western, specifically all things 1970s western to the point where the only clue as to culture and geography is the occasionally gratuitous afterthought of a hammer and sickle slapped on either a building or someone's hat. There's a Church of Elvis, a talking horse called Ed, a Starsky and Hutch themed nightclub complete with Huggy Bear, references to Top Cat, Laverne & Shirley, Scooby Doo, on and on and on. It borders on exhausting for the same reason that comedian Peter Kay became unbearable when he gave up telling jokes in preference for gurgling who remembers fondant fancies? over and over like some peculiarly senile man-toddler. The thing that hurts most is that I know I've done this exact same thing: if you have no story to tell, just keep coming with those hilariously knowing references to the amusingly crap and dated, and maybe no-one will notice. It's probably what kept Deadline magazine going, or at least the careers of Jamie Hewlett and Philip Bond, respectively artists of Tank Girl and the truly excruciating Wired World, the strips which dared to name the fave bands of those involved every three fucking panels. Hey kids, who wants to check out The Wonder Stuff?

I'll pass, thanks.

Yet I still find it impossible to dislike Red Razors - the story of a Soviet psychopath turned instrument of rough justice, in case it wasn't obvious. It's fucking stupid, but it's almost so stupid that it comes out the other side, which is probably helped by the wonderful art of Steve Yeowell who just about manages to do the job of telling the joke with a straight face. There's still a gap in there, a place where certain elements don't quite connect because the story can't work out whether or not it should have been drawn by Paul Sample or Gilbert Shelton; but by the time Millar wheels out Vic Reeves' and Bob Mortimer's Judge Nutmeg as a radioactive mutant dispensing harsh sentences for crimes such as stepping on the cracks in the pavement, it's easier to just give in and go with it.

The Hunt for Red Razors drawn by Nigel Dobbyn doesn't really fare so well. The references to Multi-Coloured Swap Shop have been toned down, but the art doesn't quite fit. It's not that it's bad, but the guy was clearly just starting out and still had some way to go; and I suppose the same was true of Millar himself - Red Razors feels rushed, unlike either Saviour or Insiders so far as I recall, and rushed  to the point of having one of those panels so beautifully parodied in Viz wherein a crowd is stood to one side offering commentary on the action:

Razors is pretty tough! Spike broke his ribs and he's still fighting!

Yes, Barry. Thanks for that.

People tend to get a bit misty-eyed with the Judge Dredd mythos from which Red Razors is derived, possibly because it's enduring and English, and whilst much of it is undeniably great, readers tend to forget all the deadline-driven landfill like The Secret Diary of Adrian Cockroach Aged 13½ Months. I'm not really sure where Red Razors sits on the scale, because the whole thing really is frankly fucking stupid, but as I say, it's so stupid it kind of works, and as such it's very difficult to dislike.

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