Devlin Waugh: Red Tide

Devlin Waugh: Red Tide
Devlin Waugh Red Tide review
  • UK publisher / ISBN: 2000AD - 978-1-78108-344-4
  • Volume No.: 2
  • Release date: 2015
  • UPC: 9781781083444
  • Contains adult content?: yes
  • Does this pass the Bechdel test?: no
  • Positive minority portrayal?: yes
  • CATEGORIES: Horror

This 2015 package under the Red Tide title shouldn’t be confused with the 2005 Red Tide. This is considerably bulkier, and only the title story is found in both, while this edition follows Devlin Waugh’s continuity from the 2014 Swimming in Blood.

While Devlin Waugh had a fictional career long before the events of ‘Swimming in Blood’ his encounter with underwater vampires left him permanently changed. He won the battle, but not the war, and left alone the undersea the vampires have proliferated. They’re now looking to extend their activities landward, which could be achieved by access to a vampire prisoner being transported by Waugh.

That’s the set-up John Smith applies to the horror movie template of introducing the threat, gathering the victims in a remote location and piling up the dead. It works as such, but isn’t as interesting as Smith’s earlier collaboration with Steve Yeowell despite some really eye-catching art from Colin MacNeil. It’s painted art in a variety of simple shades often of a brightness otherwise shunned by the colourists of the era, leaving MacNeil well ahead of the game. The figures are sometimes stiff, but his vampires and other monsters are powerfully designed, and as distinctive as his colours.

‘Bite Fight’ is a Judge Dredd two-parter impacting on Waugh’s continuity written by Smith and impeccably drawn by John Burns. It’s a rare story with Waugh in Mega-City One, where someone is trapping vampires and having them fight.

Smith named Waugh playing on 1920s novelist Evelyn Waugh, and ‘Vile Bodies’ filches the title of one of his best known novels. An encounter misguided in hindsight leaves Waugh transmitting a pheromone causing those in his vicinity to lose all self-control and start having sex with anything that’s around. It’s slight, but both Smith and MacNeil enjoy working the problem through.

‘All Hell’ lives up to the title as a group of occultists attempt to bring a demonic race to Earth via a weakened veil to the underworld. Rather than treating this as an action thriller, there’s a sombre mood to a journey through the law courts of Hell featuring imaginative threats and disturbing interludes. The surprise comes from Smith returning characters from earlier stories, a sentimentality he’s not previously shown, but they all have valid roles in what turns out as the best of this collection, constantly switching and with clever twists at the end.

It’s almost topped, though, by ‘Innocence & Experience’, the smart title concerning a glimpse back into how Devlin Waugh developed and the fractious relationship with his mother. This is superbly drawn by Peter Doherty and Smith’s farewell to the character he created, leaving the door open with a dangling mystery. Ten years later it was picked up in Blood Debt.

To his credit, Smith never sticks with one mood for Waugh’s appearances, and a fair few are showcased over these five stories. They’re variable, but never dip below average, making for a worthwhile collection.