Duke Nukem: Glorious Bastard #1 (2011)
By: Tristan Jones on July 1, 2011  |  Comments ()  |  Share 
Cover Art
Writer: Tom Waltz
Art: Xermanico, Luis Antonio Delgado
Publisher: IDW
I'm not going to go on and on like every other video game critic (I used to review those here! Those were the days…!) about the "long awaited-then-forgotten-then-oh-shit-that-IS-coming-out-now?!" release of Duke Nukem Forever (that's for another review) but what I will say is that I had certain expectations of that game; low ones, but expectations nonetheless. Those expectations were met a hundred percent, and rarely surpassed them, proving to me that Duke Nukem as we know and love him has become an anachronism. His presence in modern gaming is oddly out of place, and while the game (and character) is aware of this, it doesn't do anything to make the game work as it should to survive in the highly competitive world of First Person Shooters, being left for dead by games like Call of Duty, Battlefield, and even falling short of Bulletstorm, which was something of a loveletter to Duke as it was. However, most of these titles have also (unsurprisingly) seen comic book tie-ins in recent years, many of which failed to capture the essence of the game and felt more like some kind of ancillary cash in than a legitimate expansion of the game's universe or continuity. However, when I saw that Duke Nukem was making the jump to comics, all the low expectations and predispositions towards the character and video games-to-comics changed: there was something I could get behind. If anyone deserved to be in his own comic book, it was Duke, I thought…

And I wasn't wrong!

Duke Nukem is a character that needs an overhaul in games, but the problem is, doing that properly would likely rob Duke of everything the "Duke 3D" generation loves about him, so if you were disappointed by Duke Nukem Forever (and somewhat surprisingly, I know plenty of people who were), then here is where you need to cast your focus.

The great thing about Duke as a comic book character is that he works the way he was meant to and he now exists in a universe that isn't bound to the legacy of a game that came out 15 years ago, and he doesn't have to compete with the technology and highly competitive genre titles of the time. All you can really expect is Duke to be Duke, shit blowing up, violence and crude humor. Everything else that follows is an added bonus, but the great thing about Duke as a comic is that these added bonuses are free to be whatever they like. They don't have to try to be anything to recapture an audience, and that's noticeable from the get go. I would've given anything to see Duke Forever do something new, just take the character and give us something different, but that wasn't going to happen. Anyone who read the bonus comic that came in the ludicrously expensive Balls of Steel edition of Duke Forever probably would've given anything to have had a game half as fun and fresh as that little comic it came with (two little Duke stories – the one about him taking on robo-sharks in Hawaii is pure gold). Thankfully, the creative team from that little comic is the same one working on Duke Nukem: Glorious Bastard, the new monthly series from IDW Publishing.

Written by a Tom Waltz (who's work I've been following since his earliest material, such as the fantastic Finding Peace) and illustrated by the exotically named Xermanico, Glorious Bastard takes everything I loved about that original mini-comic from the Balls of Steel pack and pushes it further, taking Duke into adventures beyond the scenario 3D Realms set up 15 years ago. The first issue begins in Germany, in 1945, where NAZI scientists playing with extraterrestrial technology open a wormhole, having made an agreement with a hostile alien force who call for reinforcements from deep space. Of course, it all goes to Hell, and the aliens the Germans had allied themselves with turn on them. Allied forces working recon witness this event, and the next thing we know, we're transported to the present where Duke and his ego continue to overindulge in the fame and success simply being awesome has brought him. Before long, he is approached by an old woman who claims to know Duke, pleading with him to travel back in time to help the allies in their fight against the aliens. Having developed a means for sending Duke back through time, Duke agrees, and before the issue is up, Duke is transported back to 1945 to kick alien arse and lay it on thick with the sexual innuendo, pig-headed machismo, and pop-culture references.

I'd really hoped this would be a good comic, because if you ask me, comics are the perfect medium for Duke these days. I've also become something of a fan of Waltz's increasing body of work. Waltz manages to perfectly capture Duke's voice, and you can hear it come through with every line of dialogue, and what I especially appreciate about the scripting is that there isn't a single line of dialogue rehashed from any of the games (which were actually rehashed almost entirely from Rowdy Roddy Piper in They Live and virtually every Bruce Campbell movie ever). The script is funny, the story is tight and paced well enough to leave you wanting more by the time the issue is up, but you're also genuinely invested in the story enough to make you want to know what the hell is actually going on behind all the guns, violence and tits. Yeah, you read that… it's just not Duke without the tits, and the comics know that.

Xermanico's art manages to perfectly capture the ridiculously overblown stature of Nukem and still manages to make each character fun to look at. The thing about Duke is that it runs the risk of having anyone who isn't an alien or half nude just become scenery to be chewed up by the titular character, and Xermanico does a solid job of avoiding that, though it may also have something to do with Luis Antonio Delgado's great handle on the colors. The facial expressions on Duke are nailed, and really help sell the dialogue the whole way through. It's kinda surprising too, given we all know Duke extremely well, but have never really seen his face beyond the standard cigar chomping grin on the cover of every game.

Glorious Bastard probably isn't going to win any Eisners. It's not any kind of deep, reflective piece of comic book mastery, but it is absolutely hilarious and a shitload of fun. It's everything the games should be from here on out. If you're just looking for something light, easy to read and something to have a genuine laugh at, you can't really go past Duke Nukem: Glorious Bastard.
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