Red Dwarf
Red Dwarf: Prelude to Nanarchy
Medium: comic, webcast
Year: 2005
Original creator: Rob Grant, Doug Naylor
Writer: Adam Jewell, Damion Waldbrunn, Andrew Ellard
Artist: Mar Degano, Barry Williams
Keywords: SF
Series: << Red Dwarf >>
Format: 9 pages, 52 panels
Website category: Comics
Review date: 31 May 2013
It's a web comic. These are always a bit different, with this one letting you click through either page by page, or panel by panel. (I recommend the latter.)
It's also a Red Dwarf comic and quite good. It would be silly to call it a classic, but it has some funny dialogue and nothing that only lasts nine pages and makes you laugh can be all bad. Furthermore, for a while I thought it was predicting the show's future and was stunned, but then I looked again at the publication dates.
Partial timeline of Red Dwarf...
1992 - Season five, the last of the 'normal' seasons, with the crew still travelling on Red Dwarf itself, the original mining hulk. The season ends with Back to Reality and the despair squid. Unfortunately this is also the year of the failed American pilots, which with hindsight is the boundary after which Grant Naylor started disappearing ever further up their backsides.
1993 - Season six, which had the crew suddenly stuck on Starbug with no explanation. Eventually we'd get one in 1997. No Holly, either.
1997 - Season seven, with Naylor now running the show solo after Rob Grant's departure. The thinking at this time is that the show's building up towards the (cough, ahem) feature film. The season ends with Nanarchy, which at last explains what happened to Red Dwarf between Back to Reality and Psirens.
1999 - Season eight kills the show. My God, it's been a horrible ride.
2005 - Doctor Who's returned, but Red Dwarf couldn't be deader. It'll still be four years until Back to Earth, yet the official Red Dwarf website releases a comic strip... and it's bridging the narrative gap between seasons five and six. This is it. Nice timing, guys. It's also wading neck-deep in continuity. If this were Doctor Who, we'd be screaming "fanwank". What happens is a comics adaptation of Nanarchy's info-dump. It goes from Hattie Hayridge's Holly at the beginning to Norman Lovett's Holly at the end, via references to the despair squid and Kryten's nanobots.
...and I quite liked it. What it does well is its dialogue. Despite their name, comics aren't usually funny. They can be, but doing good gags is hard. This on the other hand is full of one-liners, as is right and proper for a Red Dwarf adaptation. Rimmer's line about putting the Cat out made me laugh, Holly gets some good dialogue and overall there's more than enough to keep me entertained for nine pages. Of course it's only one-liners, making for shallower comedy than you'd get from something more character-based and hence the story has less reread value than it might have had. I don't mind that, though. It's nine pages. It's amusing. Job done.
The art's a bit odd, though. I don't mind the quirky likenesses and Evil-Looking Kryten, but the last page loses impact because their attempt at Norman Lovett is unrecognisable and he's only identifiable by fannish elimination. He's a bald male head on a screen and the punchline of the story, so he must be Holly.
There had been other Red Dwarf comics, by the way. I remember Fleetway's Red Dwarf Smegazine, which ran for 23 issues and had increasingly off-the-wall comic strips that might star characters like the Polymorph, Ace Rimmer and Dwayne Dibbley. Some were written by Steve Lyons. I bought the first few issues back in the day and thought them okay but uninspired (including lacklustre comics adaptations of the first two TV episodes)... but having done some reading up about it, I'm tempted to start hunting down some of the later, loopier strips. How can you not want to read The Amusing Misadventures of Mr Flibble? They sound glorious. "Mr Flibble gets pissed and is mugged by a prostitute." "Jealous of Kookie Kola Bear, Mr Flibble rips his head off."
However I was talking about Prelude to Nanarchy. It's okay. It's funny. The art isn't aiming for likenesses, but it's colourful and energetic. It feels more like Red Dwarf than much of the actual TV Red Dwarf we'd endured in the preceding decade, if nothing else.
"Sir, I've located a vapour trail."
"It's probably Lister's..."