Teknophage (1995) #1-6

Neil Gaiman s Teknophage  6

Let’s see how long it takes me to describe Teknophage. Our reality is just one of an infinite (I think) number of realities, a multiverse woven together through the will of one single creature—the Teknophage, or Mister Henry Phage. He’s a giant dinosaur. On his planet, through mutation, he became hyper-intelligent and then discovered how to access the quantum realm and create a multiverse (or so Phage says during an interview). Sixty-five million years later, Earth is experiencing its 20th century and Phage is kidnapping humans to work in his giant mobile skyscraper hell building as it roams the planet Kalighoul. I think it can jump through the dimensions and go anywhere, they just happen to be hanging out on planet Kalinghoul.

Phage’s empire runs as a commercial enterprise, where his vice presidents scramble up the corporate ladder, hoping to someday be worthing of becoming… Phage’s dinner. Phage doesn’t eat very often because he’s got this special nap he takes as he digests his subordinates and seems to absorb them in some way. It’s unclear. Phage doesn’t like doctors so it’s entirely possible he’s never been fully diagnosed. Sometimes when Phage doesn’t like things he zaps them with his heat vision. By things I mean his “employees”—it’s unclear if middle management makes any actual money. They clearly live better than the many enslaved people who man the proverbial oars, but the upper management at least seems to enjoy their position having reached it. Though we don’t see what they do for leisure. Probably something awful.

The “hero” of the story is real estate developer Rob, who’s out at a farm he’s swindled from an old lady when he gets zapped to planet Kalinghoul. We’ve already seen Kalinghoul, with writer Rick Veitch and artist Bryan Talbot introducing it in the framing device, with this Oldish English narration cryptically describing the situation with Phage and so on.

It’s like “Monty Python” and, I don’t know, Dickens or something. I’m not English enough to know the specifics. Teknophage is extremely British; it’s about some dystopian steampunk revolt against a giant dinosaur ruler; it’s like a 2000 AD story but unqualified in its success. Talbot and Teknophage creator Neil Gaiman are English, Veitch is not. Neither’s Rob. In fact, Rob being an American figures into his behavior.

See, once Rob gets to planet Kalinghoul, he tries bartering his Earthly possessions for local money and gets ripped off. He also gets married to the woman ripping him off, which is sort of just desserts because it turns out she’s the alien abducted daughter of the old lady whose farm he just swindled. Her name is Clarissa and she’s a revolutionary in addition to being a con artist. She runs with Boog, a rough old British guy trope, who’s her surrogate father. When Clarissa goes on mission, Rob decides he’s got to save her—he’s suffering intense guilt over swindling her mom–even if it screws up her mission, which involves getting taken in for conversion, where they boil down your soul and turn you into a robot.

The writing on all the fantastical steampunk stuff is great. When the comic gets to an expository section, it’s a delight thanks to Veitch’s enthusiastic prose. It’s always entertaining.

Will Boog get Rob to realize being a capitalist maybe isn’t the greatest idea on Kalinghoul (or anywhere else)? Can Clarissa survive her undercover assignment as Phage’s new secretary (tasked with recording his life story)? Will Phage ever digest his meal? The meal who yells at him for quite a while and provides Veitch with some great comic relief.

Though there’s a lot of great comic relief amid the great comic.

Outstanding art from Talbot. His figures aren’t the greatest, unless he’s doing a little more caricature, but the settings are amazing and Teknophage himself is just as delightful visually as narratively. He’s an amazing antagonist. He’s kind of an anti-hero but also not.

Despite being from a comic book company I hadn’t heard of–Tekno Comix—until reading this title, Teknophage is actually in print (collected) as well as digitally so it’s readily available and well-worth the read.

Enough for me to continue on into the non-Veitch issues… not sure yet.

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