Comic Review – Nikolai Dante: The Beast of Rudinshtein

nikolai-dante-beast-of-rudinshtein

I love 2000ad. I really do.

Actually, that’s a bit of a lie. If I was being really accurate, I’d say I love Judge Dredd. Whenever I buy 2000ad, it’s really only for Dredd, and my periods of buying it usually only coincide with something momentous happening in Dredd’s world.

That’s not to say I don’t enjoy the other strips on offer, it’s just that they are a pleasant dessert to Dredd’s main course. When Dredd is good, the comic is good. When Dredd is bobbins, the rest of it seems to follow suit. It generally takes a very special strip to excite me more than my next Dredd fix.

Which, in a far too roundabout a manner, brings me to Nikolai Dante: The Beast of Rudinshtein.
Nikolai Dante emerged onto the 2000ad scene during one of my long sabbaticals from the title, but was still there when I returned during Dredd’s Origins period a few years back, and the strip intrigued me enough to start picking up the trades.

Eight books later, and we arrive at the current release, and what a long journey its been, from dashing rogue, to a player in the political rivalry between two warring families, to war hero, to ill-conceived pirate and finally to working for his bitterest enemy, the Tsar, as an ambassador, trouble shooter, enforcer and all-round cool guy.

The Beast of Rudinshtein picks up soon after Dante’s enforced appointment of Sword of the Tsar, and it is soon clear that Dante intends to play a very dangerous game of appearing to be a loyal subject, whilst working to bring down the Tsar’s rule from the inside.

Made up of a number of shorter stories as part of an overall story arc, rather than a single storyline, the book follows a number of Dante’s exploits from taming a nation of warrior women (in his own inimitable style), to tracking down his terrorist half-sister, to ‘protecting’ the prospective bride of his half-brother Arkady, who also happens to be the ward of the Tsar.

Throughout the book there is an essence of build-up pervading through the book. Something big is coming into Dante’s world and it smacks of a big confrontation between himself and the Tsar. This doesn’t detract the reader, on the contrary, this only has the effect of leaving the reader wanting more, as with story a new facet to Dante’s more harder, more cynical character is shown, a new twist in the relationship between Dante and the Tsar’s daughter Jena is made, and secrets long hinted about existing characters are revealed.

Nikolai Dante’s greatest asset is also its biggest flaw. It really is a storyline that needs to be picked up and read from the start. Whilst it is possible to pick up this book and enjoy its contents, it becomes so much more enlightening and entertaining if you’ve read the previous episodes.
For newcomers an enjoyable, if possibly a little confusing and slightly unfulfilling read. For existing fans of Dante’s adventures, The Beast of Rudinshtein is an unmissable episode in his epic adventures.

GS Reviewer: The Hod

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