The New Deadwardians #1–8
Written by Dan Abnett
Art by INJ Culbard
October 1910. London (Zone-A). Chief Inspector George Suttle, Murder Squard, is woken in the night when his housekeeper is killed by a ‘Restless’ (a zombie). He calmly stabs it through the throat to pin it to the table before blowing its head off with his service rifle (he saw duty in the Memorial War). The reason the restless didn’t smell him when he intervened is because, as a soldier, he took ‘the cure’ during the war to fight the Restless – he is now a vampire, for the sake of God and country. No one knows where the Restless came from. It was 1861, the year Prince Albert died; the ruling classes took the cure to stop the Restless (being technically dead made them invisible to the Restless, also known as the Cursed), and the world was never the same again.
Suttle is also the only homicide detective left in the Metropolitan police because murders don’t happen any more. Until today: a body has been dumped on the Embankment in front of Parliament. The only problem is that the body was one of the Young (a vampire), and not killed in the usual ways for a vampire. How did it die? What does it mean to this society if the Young can actually die?
The corpse is identified by the prints on its one remaining hand: it is Lord Hinchcliffe, a senior advisor to the Crown, who had been arrested but released without charge over the death of a ‘Bright’ (i.e. a normal human) girl. Suttle visits his townhouse and finds a cufflink box – the cufflinks are made of silver (which is very rare) and the design matches the burn mark on Hinchcliffe’s body. Suttle also discovers that Hinchcliffe had ‘a thirst’ – he liked to visit the East End, the Bright Quarters.
Suttle travels to the East End (Zone-B), via the Aldgate checkpoint, driving past the partition where the Restless gather at the barrier fence (he and his driver have to use a car because the horse, like all animals, won’t tolerate the presence of a vampire; however, it is a rarity in the East End and indicates his status as a Young). He visits the brothel Hinchcliffe frequented until being banned and forced to find a place in Whitechapel, recommended by his artist friend, Pretendleby (obviously not a real name). Things get more complicated before he returns to Scotland Yard.
Subsequently, Suttle is asked to ‘placate’ Lady Hinchcliffe at the family estate, which means driving on the Great North Road, outside the Metropolitan Picket, into Zone-D (the Curse spread from the south coast, then the Midlands, then the North and across the world), and to Cadley House, Buckinghamshire. There Suttle sees the cufflink design on the floor of the hall in Cadley House; apparently, it is connected to a society call The Sons Of Adam. Lord Falconbridge is at Cadley House; he is a senior government minister who tries to steer Suttle’s investigation into a different direction. This leads to a poet called Salt, some sort of magic, a major incursion of the Restless and the reason for the dawn of the Deadwardian Age …
This is a very good book. It’s a great premise that allows for comparisons in the class system (upper classes: vampires; middle class: humans; lower classes: zombies) and an examination of a different culture through the prism of this inventive alternate history (people aren’t called ‘vampire’ or ‘zombie’ because it wouldn’t be a civilised thing to do). Abnett even manages to have fun with this world – when Suttle goes to Cadley House, he encounters Hinchcliffe’s daughter, a keen supporter of the movement to emancipate women to choose the Cure for themselves, because they are not allowed until after child-bearing age, and these suffragettes have a hilarious slogan, Throats For Women. In Suttle, he has an interesting protagonist, someone who has lost all normal appetites because of taking the Cure, but who discovers them again and some meaning in life by investigating a murder. Culbard’s art style takes some adjusting to – I didn’t like it at first but, as I continued to read the book, it became quite clear that the art style is the perfect choice for the material. He is a good storyteller, the period detail is excellent, and I was impressed by the variety of faces he draws to distinguish all the characters. I thoroughly enjoyed this story and hope that Abnett and Culbard get the opportunity to tell more stories in this world.