Review by G. Forrest
Spoilers in review
England’s Glory combines the first two stories of Ian Edginton’s London-set, late nineteenth century saga of the Pope of crime, Stickleback, originally serialised in 2000 AD. This malformed supervillain comes across as part Moriarty, part Keyser Soze. Edginton appears to be having a joyous time building a cohesive mythology around the fiendish character that lassos in such disparate elements as steampunk, Victoriana, druidism, classic British television sitcoms, Lovecraftian elder gods and Buffalo Bill Cody. That he gets away with this bizarre premise showcases Edginton’s under-appreciated calibre as a writer. Stickleback’s crew are equally entertaining, with characters such as the flaming Fiery Jack, whose head is permanently alight, and the rather politically incorrect Little Tonga, a pygmy with a blow-pipe.
Stickleback combines literary fiction with real life historical characters and occult mythology much the same way as Alan Moore did in The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. However, Edginton is in no way mimicking Moore, but rather sharing similar territory and Stickleback stands proudly on its own two feet. Casting the villain as the story’s protagonist works delightfully well in making the reader complicit in this conceit.
D’Israeli provides the black and white art. He has always been inventive and versatile, but raises his barrier in creating a whole new style, influenced by the work of Uruguayan artist Alberto Breccia.
The first story in the volume, ‘Mother London’, follows the fate of Detective Valentine Bey as he pursues Stickleback to the derision of his colleagues who believe him to be a myth. Bey and Stickleback cross paths over an Illumati-esque clique, the City Fathers. The City Fathers may be the big villains of the story but Stickleback is no anti-hero on a path to redemption. This provides a good introduction to the titular villain who then takes centre stage in ‘England’s Glory’, where he is deputised by the British Establishment to locate a stolen gem of great supernatural power. This initiates an intriguing enigma as to who the deformed villain really is, which is pursued in future stories. England’s Glory provides a great sandpit for Edington and D’Israeli to play about in and, thankfully, they let us play there too.
Stickleback returns in Number of the Beast.