The GeeksverseDuke Nukem Forever #0

Duke Nukem Forever #0
Published on Sunday, July 10, 2011 by

Published by IDW Publishing
Written by Tom Waltz
Art by Xermanico
Coloured by Luis Antonio Delgado
Lettered by Chris Mowry
Cover Art by Xermanico
Editor: Chris Ryall

Comics based on videogames are nothing new.  Surprisingly enough, many game tie-in comics are actually pretty good.  The Halo comics (and novels) expand the franchise’s universe in ways the games cannot (or at very least, do not.)  The Mirror’s Edge comics, written by the game’s writer (the daughter of Terry Pratchett), show things you couldn’t see in the game.  The Gears of War comics bring maturity and depth to the franchise with dark and gritty war stories that just happen to be set in space.  The Left 4 Dead comics are worlds better than the expansion pack released under the guise of a sequel.  And this month, IDW will bring another character from the pixels on your screen to the wall of your local comic shop.

Come Get Some

Come get some! IDW brings Duke to the world of comics.

Say what you want about the character and the franchise, but Duke Nukem is among the most recognizable characters in gaming, and IDW is bringing him to the world of comics.  The Pryde got a look at the first issue of  IDW’s series, Duke Nukem: Glorious Bastard, and you can check out the advance review to find out more about that issue.  But today I’ll write about IDW’s Duke Nukem Forever #0, the exclusive comic available only in the Duke Nukem Forever: Balls of Steel Edition collector’s package.  Duke #0 is written and illustrated by the same team who will bring us Glorious Bastard, and I figured it would serve as a decent way of knowing whether or not ol’ Duke is in good hands.  Is he?  Let’s chew some bubblegum and find out.

Duke #0 perfectly captures the look, feel, and sound of Duke and his world.

Duke #0 perfectly captures the look, feel, and sound (in terms of dialogue) of Duke and his world.

Plot isn’t something you’d expect much of from a Duke Nukem game, but Duke #0 has three different stories (two separate tales, plus the frame narrative).  The story begins with a cigar-smoking dude in shades and a long jacket pulling up to an alien-themed strip bar outside Roswell, New Mexico.  He proceeds to enjoy a drink and the view of one of the dancing girls while a barmaid and a patron talk about how he looks just like Duke Nukem, “the guy that used to be on TV all time, savin’ the world and stuff.”


The S.M.A.R.T. Sharks are going to pay for ruining Duke's vacation and/or shooting up his ride.

The barmaid explains how a friend of hers met Duke while the muscular badass was on vacation and battled the Synthetically Mutated Attack Robot Terrorist Sharks, talking bipedal cyborg warrior sharks with razor-sharp metal fins and laser cannons for arms.  The barfly talks about how someone he met had seen Duke in Washington, D.C., when aliens attacked the White House.  Neither the barmaid nor the patron had encountered Duke personally; their stories are simply what friends had told them. The bartender doesn’t believe them.  Duke’s somewhat of an urban legend, “just a bunch of bullshit lies the TV folks used to tell.”  “If he were really some hot-shit hero,” the barman continues, “where the hell’s he been hidin’ for fifteen years, huh?”

The joke’s on him when a slipgate opens in his bar, revealing a pair of shotgun-wielding Pigcops, humans who have been mutated by the aliens in feral beast-like pig-men. The man in the jacket puts down his empty beer glass, throws off his coat, cracks his knuckles and begins makin’ bacon with his fists – it turns out that Duke Nukem is real (and back) after all.

Waltz has Duke down.  You can almost hear Jon St. John saying the lines.

Waltz has Duke down. You can almost hear Jon St. John saying the lines.

The story works.  It’s silly, sure, but in Duke’s over-the-top world in which aliens attack whenever they feel like it and genius scientists routinely go rogue, the events of Duke #0 fit right in.  The story is light-hearted and fun, and I laughed a few times watching Duke take on a squad of S.M.A.R.T. Sharks.

Tom Waltz’s writing is great.  He has captured the essence of Duke’s character and world perfectly.  A lesser writer would be more inclined to have Duke curse more and spout one-liner references every few panels, but Waltz’s Duke does not go overboard.  The puns, cheesy dialogue, and Duke attitude are all there, as they should be, but they’re never overused.

One of the many beautiful ladies of Duke's world.

One of the many beautiful ladies of Duke's world.

I enjoy Xermanico’s art.  It looks like a comic book.  No photorealism, no fancy paintings, just straight-up comic art.  While other videogame comics tend to go for a particular artistic look (such as the Gears of War comics’ dark artwork or the Kane & Lynch comics’ frenetic drawing style), Duke’s art isn’t flashy.  Not to say that’s it bad, mind you.  Xermanico has put a lot of attention to detail, including things like Duke’s grin and flying shards of teeth when he punches a Pigcop.  He has Duke’s sneers and smirks down.  He has a decent sense of anatomy.  Even though the bodies of Duke’s world (male, female, alien, and otherwise) tend to be exaggerated, the proportions are plausible (unlike other videogame comics, such as Udon’s Street Fighter series).  I really enjoy the way he draws his women, with expressive eyes, flowing hair, and a certain sweetness and beauty that makes them look like more than just eye-candy bimbos.  Even if the characters might just be eye-candy bimbos.  (This is Duke’s exaggerated world, after all.)  I do have one complaint about the art, and that is the shading.  Xermanico employs a lot of cross-hatching, which makes it look like the characters are bruised or burned rather that in shadow.  It serves its purpose, though, and I’m probably just being picky.

Army of Darkness

Appropriately enough, Duke #0 reads like the Army of Darkness comics. Hail to the King(s).

All in all, IDW’s Duke Nukem Forever #0 is a solid introduction to the character and universe for those who aren’t familiar with them.  Like the Army of Darkness comics, it is packed with action and humour, and makes for a very fun read.  (Duke is inspired by, among other characters, Ash from Army of Darkness and uses Ash’s lines, so it doesn’t surprise me that Ash’s comics’ atmosphere is also present in Duke’s.)  Be aware that there is quite a bit of blood, a little foul language, some overtly sexualized women and some innuendo along the way, but hey, it wouldn’t be Duke without ‘em!

The comic does not explicitly tie into the games, so fear not.  You will still be able to follow the comics even if you don’t know how easy it was to kill the boss of Episode 3 of Duke Nukem II. The comic only vaguely mentions Duke universe history, such as the fifteen years that have passed since he saved the world in Duke3D and that he’s heading to Vegas next (Las Vegas being the setting for Duke Forever).

Why just kick their asses when you can make fun of them as you kick their asses?

Why just kick their asses when you can make fun of them as you kick their asses?

Duke #0 is great start to the Duke Nukem: Glorious Bastard series and a good jump-on point for the non-Duke-initiated.  But what about the hardcore Duke fans?  Is there anything there for them?  After all, #0 is only available in an expensive collectors’ edition boxed set of a poorly-received videogame that longtime Duke fans have been waiting on for over a decade.  Rest assured, Duke fans, IDW hasn’t let us down.

For starters, they got the character right.  He looks like Duke, he acts like Duke, he talks like Duke, and he kicks ass like Duke.  (If, for some reason, they decide to make a motion comic out of this, I’m hoping they’ll get the incomparable Jon St. John so he can sound like Duke, too.)

A gag about airport security.  You know, to keep things modern.

A gag about airport security. You know, to keep things modern.

Staying true to the franchise, there are references along the way, including the stab at Duke Nukem Forever’s overly-long development, a joke about airport security, and a potential Clinton-era joke in a character’s name and hair colour (Clinton jokes being something of a running gag throughout the Duke game franchise).  And speaking of the game franchise, there are plenty of subtle nods to Duke’s past.

Oldschool Duke fans will recognize the reference to the "Duke Carribean: Life's a Beach" expansion pack of Duke Nukem 3D

Oldschool Duke fans will recognize the reference to the "Duke Carribean: Life's a Beach" expansion pack of Duke Nukem 3D.

The jacket he’s seen wearing at the bar looks like the one he wore in the artwork that ended up on the cover of the Music To Score By album.  The detail on the bottom of his boots looks like it was lifted from the opening cutscene of the oft-overlooked Duke Nukem Advance.  The barman takes a stab at Duke Nukem Forever’s development time.  The two stories (Duke fighting badguys while he’s on a tropical vacation, Duke battling aliens in Washington) might be references to expansion packs for Duke Nukem 3DDuke Caribbean: Life’s A Beach being the vacation story and Duke It Out In D.C. being the other.  The events in the comic do not match up with those from the games, but the same basic idea is there.  Plus, vacationing Duke’s shirt colours in the comic match up with those of the Duke Caribbean boxart.  A nice touch! The aliens’ head design is the Duke3D look rather than the more recent Duke Nukem Forever look, and while on vacation, Duke drops a line he used in the underrated Duke Nukem: Manhattan Project and mentions “R&R,” a concept which has shown up multiple times throughout his games.  (Those dastardly aliens always have to interrupt Duke’s downtime…)  Granted, these references in and of themselves do not necessarily show that the team care about the franchise, but I find it’s great that they’ve planted so many nods to the games’ history and surely oldschool Duke fans will catch them, and smile along the way.

"I don't dig on swine."

"I don't dig on swine."

Duke is in good hands.  Waltz, Xermanico, and the rest of the team have proved themselves to this old Duke fan.  I eagerly anticipate their Duke Nukem: Glorious Bastard series, which launches in July.  In many ways, IDW’s Duke Nukem Forever comic satisfies in ways the game does not.

Duke Nukem Forever #0 receives:

4.5 Atomic Health Powerups out of 5

Go to the Pryde’s forums and join the discussion.

IDW’s Duke Nukem Forever #0 is exclusively available in the Duke Nukem Forever Balls of Steel Edition collector’s set of the videogame. Duke Nukem: Glorious Bastard #1 releases on July 13th.  For a review of #1, click here.

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