Review by Frank Plowright
Revolution in Zabriz sees The Trigan Empire kick into high gear. Despite many online listings designating this the eighth volume (based on the order of release), these stories originally followed those in The Invaders From Gallas. Here Mike Butterworth explores the world of Elekton, introducing assorted new civilisations, and the communities overseen by the Trigans, and while at this stage a cohesive structure for Elekton wasn’t planned, the world building in general remains remarkable all these years later.
However, there’s a reason the publishers named themselves The Don Lawrence Collection, as it’s Lawrence’s fastidious and gloriously realised art providing the obvious selling point for these 1960s strips, and the oversized volume on thick paper stock provides superb reproduction. Lots of small points possibly missed in passing indicate Lawrence’s work ethic. He takes care to differentiate between his characters, even within the different races of Elekton, and when a crowd is required, he draws that crowd, not just a few people milling about. Perhaps too many creatures are small variations of those on Earth, but they have a touch of exoticism and serve their purpose.
Because Butterworth was only allocated two pages, which sometimes dropped to a page and a half, he had to be concise with his storytelling. The downside is that all characters are either heroic or villainous archetypes, and the upside is the fast pace needed to move stories forward over such limited page counts. Emperor Trigo is crowned in the same perfunctory manner as he’s married, in a single panel. Trigo is very much a hands-on man of action when needed, but that role is equally taken by his nephew Janno, a slightly younger version of Trigo, generally accompanied by his Daveli mate Keren. The most frequently used villains are the Lokans, conquered after their attack on Trigo failed. That was a lesson learned, so the Lokans generally devise some wilier method of attempting to overthrow Trigo. In two stories here they gradually poison him, turning him aggressive and cruel, and then come up with a potion that causes anyone who drinks it to lose their memory. Janno saves the day, but isn’t as fortunate during ‘Revolution in Zabriz’, when a wily ruler easily outwits him. Lawrence’s attention-grabbing cover scene pictures an incident near the end.
The other two stories both begin with disgruntled citizens, one a shady market trader whose pettiness causes a war with Herikon, the other an ambitious air commander not content with his promotion to Captain, and easily manipulated to his downfall by the Lokans. Butterworth does sometimes take an unconvincing route, Trigo’s loyal brother Brag all too easily influenced in one story, but because the stories move so fast the lapses are minimised. It leaves twisting narratives that hit all the right spots and are spectacularly well drawn. The only drawback is the luxury coming at a price that matches it. All these stories are alternatively found in the first volume of Rebellion’s standard sized paperback The Rise and Fall of the Trigan Empire, which also encompasses the content of the third of these hardbacks, The Reign of Thara.