Written by Ryan Ferrier with art from Valentin Ramon, D4VE started out on the small imprint Monkey Brain Comics before leaping over to Image for a second mini-series and ending up with IDW Publishing for the third (and currently final) series. Not many characters have such a varied publishing history and I’m surprised Image didn’t stick with it as it fits with the kind of comics they publish perfectly, being a quite unusual but mostly enjoyable romp with the sort of characters DC and Marvel don’t tend to specialise in and if anything it’s akin to something you might find in British comic 2000AD.
It’s set in a world where many years ago robots rose up and killed all of the humans, or in the words of our hero D4VE “It was a good ol’ fashioned Man-Meat ass-kicking”. They also cleansed the galaxy of all alien life too, and now they’re living the kind of lives that are very similar to those of us crazy humans, working in jobs they don’t like and coming back to their families at the end of a long day and then either ignoring or arguing with them. So yeah, the poor bastards didn’t learn from our mistakes at all, and despite no one having a pulse otherwise the world is pretty similar to the one we currently exist in.
Which might not sound like a set up for larks a plenty but D4VE (and it’s two sequels) are pretty funny comics, a satire on the humdrum lives we experience which contains a lot of strong jokes and amusing ideas, be it in the form of D4VE’s hatred for the daily grind, his irritating son 5COTTY and his teenage ways, the fact that due to his casual neglect of her his wife S4LLY wants to leave him, or the general nervous breakdown D4VE’s on the edge of having. But before his life can really go to shit it turns out their are still some aliens left alive in the galaxy and they’ve landed on Earth looking for peace. Or that’s what they claim, but you’ve probably already guessed that they’re lying little bastards.
Within the first series there’s lots of mockery of the tedium of corporate culture and how depressing it is, and it’s also filled with piss taking of action movie cliches and the supposedly cool dialogue found in such films. Plus there’s some amusement to be had by the fact that there’s lots of jokes using computer terminology, and rather than exclaiming “Jesus Christ” they say things like “William H. Gates”, “Sweet Baby Gates” or “Jobsdamn”. 5COTTY is sex obsessed and masturbates with every opportunity, though this is a joke which starts off strongly and then gets a bit tiresome after a while, and initially I thought he was going to be a character I really disliked but thankfully Ferrier develops him slowly and the fact that he discovers he’s gay adds a lot of depth to him. By the end of the first mini-series D4VE comes good and saves the world, if not the relationship with his family, and if they’d had left it at that it would have been a fun if throwaway read which I probably wouldn’t be writing about.
The second and third series, D4VE 2 and D4VEOCRACY really develop not only the characters but the world they’re set in though, and are all the better for it. In D4VE 2, after the events of the first series D4VE is considered a hero for saving the world when everyone else was ready to give up, 5COTTY even vaguely respects his father, not that he’d ever tell him to his face, and the latter’s relationship with his best friend BR4D develops nicely as they deal with teenage angst and coming from a broken home. The swearing is more inventive, and so amusing, in the second mini series with 5COTTY’s new dog especially on foul mouthed form (and who doesn’t enjoy sweary canines?), and the series also plays around with D4VE’s neuroticism when it comes to dating as when he’s asked out by B3TH he has plastic / metallic surgery to improve his looks and comes out looking freakishly odd. This particular bit of satire on the obsession with appearance and vanity could perhaps be a little more subtle, but D4VE looks so bizarre it’s impossible not to laugh.
As for the overall story arc, it’s only this element that disappoints, though for a big chunk of the five issues it’s in the background so not too much of a problem. But after two humans suddenly arrive in a time machine everyone starts to panic, especially when they get loose and are horrified to discover that humanity no longer exists and so plan to go back to the past and change history. It gives Ferrier a chance to throw in some commentary about how people panic when they watch the news, whether it be true or not, and it’s just a shame that it ends in a slightly weak manner with D4VE also going back in time to before the robots murdered everyone, and after meeting humans he realises he loves our take on life and hopes to create a future where humans and robots live side by side. Except that he fails, and bar some very minor changes everything is as it was at the beginning of the series. Perhaps I’ve misinterpreted Ferrier’s intentions but it’s a little frustrating as the series began as a parody of humanity’s shitty lives, so why D4VE thinks we had it any better is open to question, and due to his mission failing the series doesn’t advance in any manner.
D4VEOCRACY is the third and final series featuring the characters and after travelling back in time D4VE’s no longer respected and has been demoted back to having a crappy job again. But after the president is assassinated and it looks like the rather horrendous candidate S4M is going to win D4VE decides to run for office. It has a certain amount in common with Mike Judge’s Idiocracy as it’s set in the future, mocks anti-intellectualism and commercialism and has a political element to it, but this is more a satire on Trump’s election than anything else.
With 5COTTY now working for a Buzzfeed type site (DUD3R) there’s much parodying of various brainless website’s which contain pointless lists and weak advice, and social media as a whole gets a knocking too, while Fox News (or F4K News as it’s named here) and a company which has exactly the same logo as Shell (but is never named as such) get a decent bashing as well. Due to all of these elements D4VEOCRACY is easily the best of the three series and though the other two have a lot of very funny moments this is the only one which satisfies throughout. There’s a lot of pointed political commentary about how the 1% shit on the lives of the other 99%, and the fact that S4M lies his metallic arse off while D4VE tries to win favour by talking about his war history means that though it might not be enormously sophisticated comedy it is pretty effective.
There’s a strong emotional element in it too as after some of the robot’s are affected by a virus they turn against each other, which includes 5COTTY’s boyfriend BR4D and D4VE’s former wife S4LLY, while the ending suggests this really will be the last we see of D4VE and co and so has a powerful edge to it. Less reliant on sweary fun and violence it’s a shame that there’s no more to come as it feels like Ferrier was just getting in to the groove and it’s a mini-series I’m extremely fond of.
Overall then the fifteen issues of D4VE are a slightly mixed bag, the first ten relying on violence, swearing, family issues and mild satire to create laughs but also slightly disappointing when it comes to how the plots are resolved. But even despite this the characters are always appealing and Valentin Ramon’s art makes the comics a must read, and it’s also worth doing so because the final five issues are so great, a blast from start to finish with political satire that’s really clever stuff, and an emotional intensity which will lead you to really missing all of Ferrier and Ramon’s creations when you finish reading the last page.