Deviations: Beta – Comic Review

A collection of four well known universes, we review IDW Publishing's Deviations: Beta...

As with the previous volume of Deviations, this latest release from IDW takes a look at some key moments from a number of their comic universes and reimagines them. What happens to some of your best loved franchises when things take a very different path?

Deviations: Judge Dredd

In the original story ‘Cry of the Werewolf’ a flesheating werewolf made it’s way out of the Under-City and into the streets of Mega-City One. Attacking citizens and turning them into werewolves, Judge Dredd made it his mission to stop the monsters.

After being bitten by one of the werewolves and became one of the monsters. Judge Prager, a Judge on the long walk, managed to capture Dredd, who was returned to normal thanks to a cure developed by Judge Cassidy.

In Deviations: Judge Dredd, however, we find ourselves in a world where Judge Cassidy was killed before he was able to perfect his cure, leaving Dredd Stuck in his new, monstrous form. When the crazed composer Karl Heinz-Pilchards-In-Tomato-Sauce Clayderman causes destruction that puts citizens of Mega-City One in jeopardy, and accidentally frees Wolf Dredd from his confinement, the other Judges discover that Dredd has managed to regain control of his mind.

With Dredd now in control of his new form he stops Clayderman and saves dozens of citizens, leading to him becoming beloved by the city. Unable to allow Dredd to remain in the city he is allowed to take the long walk into the wilderness, where he can continue on as a Judge.

The artwork and story in Deviations: Judge Dredd captures the look and feel of a classic Judge Dredd story, and manages to be a worthy follow-up story to the original. Less intense than a lot of Judge Dredd stories, it does manage to incorporate a strong level of humour and charm to proceedings.

Whether a fan of Judge Dredd, or completely new to the franchise, ‘Howl of the Wolf’ is certain to entertain readers.

Deviations: My Little Pony

The My Little Pony segment of Deviations tells a very different story to the one that fans will know, retelling the very first episode of the series, but with a different hero in place of Twilight Sparkle.

In this new world, Princess Celestia did not choose Twilight Sparkle to be her student, instead choosing Prince Blueblood due to him needing more help with his studies. With Prince Blueblood proving to be self-centred, Celestia sends him to Ponyville in order to make friends in the lead up to the Summer Sun Celebration.

When he arrives in Ponyville he finds that Nightmare Moon has already escaped from the moon, and is terrorising the town. Encountering the ponies that would go on to be Twilight Sparkle’s friends, Prince Blueblood manages to alienate all of them with his selfish and self-centred ways.

Deviations: My Little Pony tells a fun and interesting reimagining of the first My Little Pony episodes, subverting expectations. Instead of having Prince Blueblood replace Twilight Sparkle and replicate her journey, things play out completely differently, with it eventually being Princess Luna who goes on to make friends with the characters of Ponyville.

The book manages to capture the look and feel of the show, keeping the charm that makes the show such a success. A very lighthearted adventure, Deviations: My Little Pony will definitely interest pony fans.

Deviations: Star Trek

Deviations: Star Trek tells a much darker story than most Star Trek fans will be used to, set in a world where the Romulan Empire has captured Earth and enslaved humanity, forcing them into penal colonies.

Over the course of the story we learn that at some point following the first contact with the Vulcans, and the formation of the Federation, the Romulans took over, and that they have since repressed all knowledge of this history from the people of Earth, having them believe that the Romulans found them as a young, savage race.

In this dark and brutal world we discover William Riker and his group of freedom fighters trying to break into a Romulan prison in order to rescue a man who can lead them to a secret federation base. He’s accompanied by Worf, the former prison security officer turned pacific; Geordi La Forge, who can see by having wired himself into the head of the android Data; and Deanna Troi, who was forced to use her empathic power to torture people in the camps. Together the group manage to rescue Jean-Luc Picard, who can help them with their fight for freedom.

Whilst Deviations: Star Trek is a one-shot comic, it feels very much like the beginning issue of it’s own series, more so than any other story in this collection. It ends having completed its story, but ready to take events further, ready to set our heroes off on their own brand new adventure.

The universe that it has created is an interesting one, one in which we don’t know what happened (or when) to change events, but offers a number of hints at some disaster befalling a young Federation. The tone of this universe very much feels like the mirror universe that was visited in Deep Space Nine, and takes a lot of inspiration from this, even down to the look of Deanna Troi being very similar to the mirror universe Kira.

Deviations: Star Trek works well as its own single issue story, but could also act as a great starting point to a new ongoing series. Hopefully this will be a world that IDW will be interested in exploring in the future.

Deviations: X-Files

Deviations: X-Files is a brave comic. With dozens of monster of the week stories that could have been altered, a parts of the overall mythology that could have been explored in a what if style, there were so many options this book could have taken. Instead, it throws the entire X-Files universe that we know on it’s head by simply saying, ‘what if Mulder got abducted instead of Samantha?’

Set in a world where Samantha Mulder went on to be the conspiracy theory believing, alien hunting FBI agent, this story sees her and her partner, Dana Scully, investigate a case of murders where all of the victims are identical looking Park Rangers. When a shapeshifting adversary kills another Park Ranger, and steals all evidence of the case, Sam and Scully must team up with the Lone Gunmen to delve deeper into the mysterious Syndicate and their far reaching conspiracy.

Taking characters and stories from the series and flipping things on their head works incredibly well for this story. We know everything that’s happening, we’ve seen it all before on the show, but the subtle differences make it all new and exciting. The moment when Sam tells Scully of the identical men I knew what story the book was telling. I knew we’d get the alien bounty hunter, and a clone of Mulder, but this pre-existing knowledge of what story beats would be explored didn’t ruin anything; instead it just made me more excited to see what was coming next.

Fans of The X-Files will get a lot of joy out of Deviations: X-Files, in getting to see the X-Files universe shifted so dramatically, yet following a similar path. A brilliant use of the Deviations premise.

Deviations: Beta collects together four amazing stories that explore their respective franchises in new and exciting ways, and would all make great limited or ongoing series in their own right. IDW have managed to deliver amazing content, and I can’t wait to see what ideas they can explore with future Deviations books.

Deviations: Beta is now available from IDW Publishing.

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