In this recent graphic novel, the cream of British and European writers and artists have collaborated to explore life in Scotland thirty years into the future, with each paired writer and artist being given one chapter. The intricately detailed wraparound cover by Tom Kindley shows the flooded landscape of the Edinburgh of the future: the icecaps have melted, sea levels have risen and Scotland’s way of life had been drastically altered. The low-lying towns have been abandoned; the rich have taken everything for themselves, and the poor are left to wallow in makeshift shantytowns. The main protagonist is Cait McNeil, a presenter on a reality TV Show, which is set on a farm that produces genetically modified livestock of a somewhat dubious nature. Unexpectedly, she finds herself on the run when her boyfriend is killed and the GM livestock begin to turn violent.
IDP: 2043 has scored something of a coup with its creative teams. IDP stands for “Internally Displaced People”, a phrase the United Nations uses to describe refugees that are still in their country of origin. With such a title, the book becomes politically charged. Pat Mills’ opening chapter shows the veteran writer at his very best, echoing his early world building work on Judge Dredd, and the unflinching social analysis he brought to his celebrated Charley’s War. Hannah Berry’s art is a good match for Mills, oddly beautiful and otherworldly in its depiction of some of the graphic novel’s scenes that are quite gruesome.
Chapter two shifts gears as Will Morris offers the tale of a law enforcer for the privileged who has an attack of conscience. After the pace of the opening chapter, the contemplative nature of this chapter with its noir style artwork is a welcome break. Morris breathes life into what could have been a throwaway character, reminding the reader that everyone has a story, regardless of his or her current situation. The social analysis and character commentary really lift this whole collection to a superlative standard seldom seen in mainstream comics.
Chapter three by Adam Murphy is a flashback to Cait’s first day at the farm, answering a few questions raised by Mill’s opening chapter and explores the nature of Cait’s media role. Murphy’s chapter starts on a lighter and campier tone before morphing into an ingenious critique of the class divide and the shallowness of reality television. This is the collection at its most surprising and satirical.
In sharp contrast, Irvine Welsh and Dan McDaid’s chapter is reminiscent of John Romita Jnr blockbuster style on Kick-Ass but mingled harmoniously with Frank Miller’s Sin City. Chapter four weaves a horrific tale of very human horror. Welsh, naturally contributes the most haunting story while McDaid art deserves a special mention its sheer honesty and brutality. Of all the chapters, this one could have been a stand-alone tale. Denise Mina and the singularly named Barroux deliver an experimental piece in chapter 5 with very little dialogue, and a surreal aesthetic. It is intriguing, if occasionally perplexing.
The tour de force ending belongs to Mary Talbot and Kate Charlesworth. Charlesworth’s visual flair reaches heights comparable to the great Moebius and Talbot’s script crackles with wit and intensity as we rocket to a satisfactory if quirky conclusion. IDP is not an environmental sermon, it incorporates its themes subtly, rather than place them front and centre and thus the collection avoids being preachy. It is to the credit of the various writers and artists that the social and environmental message is grounded and also lacks histrionics, allowing the characters and strong narrative cohesion to carry the tale. IDP also serves as a seminal showcase of British and European talent that is often criminally overlooked. Any newcomer to graphic novels who wishes to explore comics beyond the superhero genre would do well to start here, before going on to explore the work of the collection’s various creators.