Reviews: “there can be only one” – Highlander, the American Dream #1
Highlander: the American Dream #1,
Brian Ruckley, Andrea Mutti, Vladimir Popov,
(cover artwork by Francesco Francavilla)
I’m a big fan of Brian Ruckley’s fantasy novels, and I enjoyed his first foray into comics writing with IDW’s Rogue Trooper mini-series (see here), and I have been looking forward to what the Edinburgh scribe was going to do with his take on Highlander. This series is based around the original 1980s cult classic film with Christopher Lambert and Sean Connery, rather than the later TV series with Adrian Paul (which I was very fond of), and in fact it is set just before the events of the original film, in mid 1980s New York, with the few remaining immortals feeling the irresistible draw to this place, that the long wait for the end is coming, where they will have to engage in combat to the death (immortal – except to decapitation, take that, take that immortal’s power for your own) to contend for The Prize.
There are good nods here to the 80s film, even opening on Hudson Street at the antiques shop run by “Russell Nash” (really Connor MacLeod, the eponymous Highlander), complete with Rachel, the woman we saw him rescue as a child from the Nazis during WWII. When Rachel receives a visitor who she doesn’t recognise at first, but who know her, she is understandably wary – especially as Rachel is one of the few mortals who knows about the immortals, having been brought up by MacLeod and is fiercely loyal to him. Her visitor, an immortal called Vazilek, is an old acquaintance of Connor, not there to attack him but merely to speak to him – besides, as he points out, she know what he is and that the gun she is gripping under the table really won’t do much to stop him if he had other intentions…
Vazilek arranges to meet MacLeod on the iconic Brooklyn Bridge, and despite being in a public space with witnesses around, they seem a little wary at first, like cats circling one another, but both reveal they have not brought their swords as a gesture of trust and soon they are talking like old friends, unaware that they are being observed as they do so. As they marvel at the sight of late 20th century New York, contrasting it with the centuries they were born into, Vazilek tells MacLeod that there are now only a handful of immortals left in the world, all being drawn here for the gathering.
As they talk it leads into a flashback, in the proper Highlander tradition, to a previous time period, when the two first met during the American Civil War, Vazilek living the life of a monk in a monastery when a wounded Macleod in Union uniform is pursued by a nasty Confederate immortal who shows disdain for the rule all immortals must follow – not fighting on holy ground, it is sanctuary. Afterwards as the monk tends to MacLeod (in a scene which has touches of the monastery hospital scene from The Good, the Bad and the Ugly about it) he talks to him about The Prize. Vazilek is aware of Ramirez, the ancient immortal (played by Connery in the film) who trained Connor and like Ramirez he is concerned – there are good and there are evil immortals, just like with any person, and if the strong, evil immortal is the one to claim The Prize then darkness could descend on a humanity totally unaware of the danger in its midst.
It’s a good opening, and interesting to explore events right before what we saw on the big screen, and it dangles again those moral questions that came up between MacLeod and Ramirez back in the Highlands centuries before – what happens if an evil immortal is last man standing to claim The Prize and also, on a more personal note, if “there can be only one” then how strong can their friendship be? Would good-hearted immortals who have been friends fight each other to the death if they had to?
I get the impression Mutti was enjoying himself as he drew the art here, from historical periods like the Civil War, right after Gettysburg, to 1980s New York (itself now a long-gone historical period – witness the view from the bridge of a Manhattan complete with the Twin Towers…), and he avoids the too-easy trap of making his heroes look too muscular or superhuman, more sensibly choosing to depict Connor in his trademark crumpled trench coat, and somewhat comfortably disheveled air. Time to put on some 80s Queen and settled back for a good read!
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