One of my favourite 2000AD strips was Flesh, a story which presented a possible future where mankind devised a time travelling device to solve their meat crisis – namely that there was none! They would travel back in time and farm the dinosaurs, this was a fascinating story which had strong characterisation – especially in the lead protagonist and hero, no not the humans, but the leader of the Dinosaur revolution, a fearsome Tyrannosaurus called One Eye.
When I started to go through the Rebellion on line store, I was delighted to see that there is a compilation of Flesh Stories, the story which I want to review here is not among that however, it was released as a supplement for the Judge Dredd Megazine. The Legend of Shamana is another gripping and fascinatingly gory tale of human corporate greed, betrayal and large, stompy, dinosaurs. Having just finished it on a lazy, early Sunday morning, I’m reflecting on how much fun this story is, I’m not denying that there is the characteristic sociological depth from the illustrious pens of Pat Mills and Tony Skinner, but sometimes as I write review recommendations I neglect to highlight one of the most important aspects of 2000AD’s premier series – the sheer enjoyment which comes from reading them.
So we begin a few years after the disaster which befell the human corporations in the original Flesh and it seems that greed…greed never dies. The corporation is back and continuing to harvest dinosaur flesh, in brutal, horrendous and downright evil ways. But there is one human, someone very special, she communes with the dinosaurs and understands them, she is part of their herd – she is Shamana. She is like Romulus of Roman myth, raised by the mighty Dinosaurs as one of their own, she begins an alliance between the Herbivores and the Carnivores, threatening the ‘status quo’ that the corporation has imposed.
From the first opening pages we see in stomach churning and captivating splendour (courtesy of the fantastic Carl Critchlow’s art design) how the Dinosaurs are harvested, huge red neck humans wielding chainsaws, taking delight in chopping off their heads with roaring delight. From this we as the readers, have no doubt who the real monsters of this two volume story actually are! We are introduced to the heads of the corporation as spoilt, uncaring, sociopaths whose only aim is to make money at whatever cost. Make no mistake the clever prose elicits an indictment regarding the true nature of capitalism and the soul stealing nature of self interest, robbing most of the human characters of empathy.
All of this is wrapped up in delightfully dark humour, a hall mark of truly deep 2000AD stories, this is a Mills and Skinner speciality and as I read the two volumes which comprise the story over again, I appreciated the form of artistry that is inherent within the prose. There are moments of hilarity which brought a smile inwardly and at times migrated that wry inward gesture to my face. There are moments of startling realisation – towards the end of the first volume there is a possible polemic regarding human civilisation and it’s ‘heights’ being realised by reality television (and a scene which pays homage to 2000AD A Space Odyssey – although in an inverse way). As well as sobering feelings of disquiet regarding aversion therapy and it’s uses to indoctrinate a sense of ‘normality’ deemed appropriate by the establishment.
This remarkable prose is brought to life by beautifully detailed grotesque images that perfectly capture the atmosphere and mood of the story. The Dinosaurs look incredible – and each of them are memorable thanks to the colourful artwork. The action sequences are astonishing and the ripping and tearing of limbs and squashing of juicy human heads will make you wince and cheer as the Dino revolt continues apace.