2 out of 5
Tonally, something of a precursor to the more recent Meg offering Realm of the Damned – only significant degrees less ‘cunty’ and violent – Necrophim is one of the oddball non-sci-fi strips in 2000 AD, favoring a fantasy take on heaven and hell, with our focus on the crazed Lucifer and the kingdom-usurpping plotters Uriel and Neboron. ‘Oddball’ isn’t meant as a sleight in this case: Some excellent, long-running tales have sprung from that template, but it is always somewhat surprising when first exposed to such tales, especially one like Necrophim that doesn’t shy away from many-a bared breast and some four letter usage.
Unfortunately, this doesn’t make it into the higher echelon of those oddball titles. The two storylines (mostly) collected here tell one long tale: Of the Hell-dedicated Necrophim, Uriel – a fallen angel – realizing that his boss, Lucifer, has totally lost sight of whatever it means to be a good ruler of the realm. He’s not alone in seeing this, of course, and so must navigate double-crosses from other Necrophim – the monstrous Neboron – his on-again, off-again girlfriend succubi Cythea, offers of solidarity from the angel Raziel, and the reactive (and violence-inducing) suspicions of his boss. The first half of this story, ‘Hell’s Prodigal’, has a somewhat hokey, B-movie appeal, but when Uriel makes some decisions to move against Lucifer, the double- and triple- and quadruple-crosses in the latter half, ‘Civil Warlord’ become tiresome and fairly stupid, with that B-movie vibe sinking into over-seriousness, and everyone – Uriel included – plotting and pontificating like prats.
Lee Carter’s murky art unfortunately doesn’t help matters. While the scratchy, black and white design is an appealing match, characters lack personality, environments look like Generic Industrial Setting A, and the costume design is like a choose-your-own-Cenobite. It’s vague ideas without much definition, which – as the tale drags on – draws attention to similar problems in the narrative: A completely lacking sense of worldly structure for hell, heaven, and the rules that dictate them.
The premise and high level visual execution are a nice side step for 2000 AD, and initially works with some camp appeal, but Necrophim becomes an exhaustive read in its back half.