Duncan Jones & Alex Di Campi
*** SPOILER WARNING ***
Even for a director with such a high pedigree, being known best for Moon, Warcraft, Source Code, and Mute, it can still be difficult to get a film from script to screen. Duncan Jones has been trying to get 2000AD’s Rogue Trooper to screen for the best part of a decade, so it isn’t that surprising that Once Upon a Time in the Future spent so much time in development limbo as well. Originally written as the second part of the “Mooniverse” series, along with Moon, and Mute, the sheer complexity and range of locations in the script made it almost unworkable as a film, even for a director of Duncan’s talents. Quite simply it was too big, too expensive, and too early to make. Thankfully Duncan’s love of comics suggested a way for the story to come to life, turn it into a graphic novel. But with no experience of graphic novels apart from a lifelong love of reading them it meant a collaboration was needed. This is where Alex Di Campi comes in, writer of graphic novels and 200AD’s Rogue Trooper.
Alex has reversed the usual flow of things and converted a screenplay to graphic novel. For those unfamiliar with the Mooniverse it’s a hyper-capitalistic future where corporations rule. In Moon mining corporations decide it’s cheaper to grow clones and make them believe they’re human, before killing them, than it is to send actual humans to the moon to mine its resources. It’s a work that digs into the ethics of cloning and the moral questions around what it means to be human. Ostensibly Madi is set in the same Mooniverse, against the backdrop of warring corporations vying for customers across the globe. Primarily it’s set in London, where even the underground stations are controlled by the corporations and only customers of the corporation can use the station. Hostile takeovers really are hostile.
Madi herself is an augmented soldier, now turned mercenary. As such she’s everything you would expect a future soldier to be, resilient, resourceful, strong, and agile. As a mercenary it’s her job to get in, and then allow her controller to take over her body. Need an onsite hacker or surgeon, but don’t want to risk a civilian in a warzone? Send in the mercenaries and then just take over their body. To keep themselves safe every person carries a chip, without which no one else can take control. A perfect failsafe, unhackable.
But what happens when someone creates a way to hack any system, including an augmented soldier? Tasked with stealing the perfect hacker from her own employers Madi finds herself on the run. From her employers, from the rival company that hired her, and even from her own mercenary group. Everyone wants what she has and it’s a race for survival, and a race to keep herself from being controlled by the Red Sun.
It’s an excellent graphic novel and one that I hope gets revisited at some later date. As an extra treat each location in the story has its own dedicated artist, including 2000AD’s legendary artist Simon Bisley. You may know his work from the ABC Warriors, Judge Dredd, and Slaine, as well as the groundbreaking Batman/Judge Dredd crossover Judgement on Gotham among others. With so much talent concentrated in one place it’s truly zarjazz!