Comicbook: Nikolai Dante

Say you want a revolution?
"I'm too cool to kill."

In the year of the Tsar 2666 AD, Imperial Russia once again entered a time of troubles. The rule of Vladimir the conqueror, Tsar of all the Russias, had been unopposed for centuries. Now it was being challenged by the house of Romanov, the most powerful imperial dynasty beside the Tsars own.

Warfare on such a scale had not been contemplated since the last revolution, from which the Mafiya clans rose to power. On the ashes of that conflict, they founded a new empire based upon the underworld principles of the ancient Vorovskoi Mir- the Thieves world.

In such a world, a single man could rise to prominence if he was a fool and an adventurer, a gambling man whose only stake was his life. Of course, this could only happen if he survived long enough and didn’t get his throat slit in the boudoir of some lady of dubious morals first…

Nikolai Dante is the eponymous hero of a comics series published in the weekly British science fiction anthology 2000 AD. Created by writer Robbie Morrison and artist Simon Fraser, Dante first appeared in 1997. Fraser was the primary artist for the first three years of the series, with support from artists such as Charlie Adlard, Henry Flint, Chris Weston and Andy Clarke. From 2000 the majority of the stories were painted by John Burns, until Fraser returned to the character in October 2006, when the two artists began to alternate on different stories. The current stories as of early 2012 have been confirmed by Word of God as the last arc of the series, The current Story called Sympathy for the Devil is its last.

Set in the twenty-seventh century after a resurgent Imperial Russia has seized absolute control of both the entire Earth and an interstellar domain, the series follows Dante, a swashbuckling young thief and ladies' man, as he discovers he is an illegitimate scion of the Romanov Dynasty, aristocratic rivals to the Tsar, Vladimir the Conqueror of the House of Makarov.

Tropes associated with this work:

  • Action Girl: Several. Jena Makarov and Elena Kurakin stand out.
  • Amazon Brigade: Katarina Dante's pirate crew and Monique le Fanu's Vampires
    • And the army of the nation of Amazonia.
  • Anachronism Stew: Nikolai's universe is apparently a combination of the far future and some part of pre-World War One.
  • And I Must Scream: Poor, poor Valentin
  • And Now You Must Marry Me: Dmitri/Arkady and Jena. And Nikolai has to watch the ceremony.
  • Animal Motif: The Romanovs have the hawk/eagle and the Makarovs have the raven.
  • Anyone Can Die: And boy do they....
  • Aristocrats Are Evil
  • Army of Thieves and Whores: Trope Namer.
  • As Lethal as It Needs to Be: Nikolai Dante's Huntsman 5000 rifle is like this. It fires the optimum ammunition to eliminate its target at any time, but Nikolai's used it to shoot to wound on occasion.
  • Avenging the Villain
  • Back from the Dead: Examples of this are LuLu, Konstantine, Dmitri, Viktor and Nikolai himself
  • Badass Beard: Several characters, notably Nikolai and The Tsar.
  • Badass Boasts: The Tsar tells Dmitri, "You may have been born to rule, but I was born to conquer."
  • Badass Normal: A fair few, but notably Dante himself after he is stripped of his crest by Dimitri Romanov.
  • Berserk Button: For Nikolai, when Konstantine mentions that he started the war. Plus when the Tsar nukes Amerika off the map after Nikolai promised to save the city
    • Generally, slaughtering of innocents and abuse of those outside the aristocracy is a good way to piss Nikolai off.
  • Big Bad: For the longest time it was the Tsar now It appears to be Dimitri/Arkady followed by his son, Konstantin Romanov and possibly now full circle to the Tsar.
    • The series' major antagonists have always been Dmitri Romanov of House Romanov and Vladimir Makarov of House Makarov with Konstantin Romanov, Sir Richard Hawksmoore and The Kraken being the Big Bads of their respective storylines.
  • Blood Bath: The High Priestess of the Cadre Infernale, Camilla Le Fanu, took these to rejuvenate her youth and beauty. See Also: Kill the Poor.
  • Blood Knight: Many, but Elena Kurakin stands out.
  • Body Horror: Valentine Romanov's crest has left him physically scarred and mentally deranged.
  • Bond, James Bond: Nikolai tends to introduce himself as "Dante, Nikolai Dante" in as over the top a manner as he can.
  • Book Ends: Nikolai's Captain Morgan Pose from the start of the first installment is repeated at the very end, as well as the opening blurb.
  • Brought Down to Normal: In "A Farewell to Arms", Nikolai's crest is destroyed, forcing him to fight as a mundane for the rest of the comic.
    • Before he got the weapons crest, Nikolai was Badass Normal, so not as far a fall as some.
  • Butt Monkey: The Arbatov family are an entire clan of Butt Monkeys. Every one of them has some misfortune happen to them upon meeting Nikolai.
  • Captain Ersatz: Janus Stark, Catwoman, Crusher Creel, Luther Arkwright, Captain America, Sláine and Sinister Dexter all appear fairly thinly veiled.
  • Carpet of Virility: Nikolai is depicted as having a manly chest rug, except when drawn by John Burns or Steve Yeowell.
  • Child by Rape: After Katarina tries to steal some treasure from Dmitri that she had already stolen for him, he feels that he "has to break her." Nikolai is the result of this. When told that he wasn't conceived out of love, he tries to cut Dmitri's head off.
  • Combat Pragmatist: Nikolai is frequently described as the dirtiest fighter in the empire.
  • Cool and Unusual Punishment: Papa Yeltsin frequently drowns people in vodka.
  • Cyborg: The Romanovs all have cybernetic implants giving them various abilities. Nikolai's gives him cyber blades, computer hacking abilities and a limited Healing Factor.
  • Chekhov's Gun: At the beginning of the series Nikolai promised that he would raise an army of thieves and whores to crush the Tsar. Something which happened in the series nearly 13 years later.
  • The Chessmaster: The Countessa de Wynter
  • Cloud Cuckoo Lander: Henry Windsor-McKray, King of Britannia. He's the only monarch in history to have retained power by pleading insanity.
    • As Nikolai points out, while His Royal Highness is pants-on-his-head mad, he has nothing on real maniacs like the Tsar and Dmitri Romanov.
  • Dating Catwoman: Akita Sagawa is essentially the Big Bad for the Hell And High Water arc. Doesn't stop Nikolai from sleeping with her.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Nikolai's Weapons Crest never wastes an opportunity to insult Dante for his impetuous actions, often quipping about the situation he's stumbled into.
  • Depraved Bisexual: Lulu.
  • Do Not Call Me Eugenia
  • The Dragon: Count Pyre starts out as Lord Protector until Dante kills him during the war. Konstantin is appointed Lord Protector in his place. Elizabeth Hawksmoores becomes Arkady /Dmitri's dragon later on. Nikolai himself becomes a Dragon with an Agenda / The Starscream when the Tsar recruits him as "Sword of the Tsar."
  • Elite Mooks: The Raven Corps.
  • Evil Versus Evil: The war between the Romanov and Makarov dynasties can be seen as this with Nikolai and Jena as their respective Token Good Team Mates.
  • Expy: Dante is essentially a combination of Errol Flynn's portrayal of Robin Hood and Flynn himself.
  • Eyepatch of Power: Katarine Dante.
  • Fallen Hero: The Tsar tells Nikolai that he used to be called a hero when he deposed his predecessor. Unfortunately, Power Corrupts and he became more ruthless than the man he deposed.
  • Fanservice: The series is full of it, particularly in its early days
  • Feuding Families: The Romanovs and Makarovs
  • Femme Fatale: Lulu Romanov
  • Flawed Prototype: Valentine's crest was the first to be developed for human use. As a result, the Healing Factor is absent and he is massively scarred, both physically and mentally.
  • Glove Slap: Subverted in an early story. Captain Arbatov does this to Nikolai to challenge him to a duel. Nikolai simply responds by kicking him in the balls.
    Jena: He was challenging you to a duel.
    Nikolai: Well, he lost.
  • Good People Have Good Sex: Akita Sagawa notes that the Tsar is "all take" in the bedroom. Konstantin is unable to orgasm. Nikolai, on the other hand, is a classic Sex God.
  • Half-Identical Twins: Alexandr and Alexandra Romanov. See Also: Twincest.
  • Heroic Bastard: Nikolai is the son of the head of an imperial dynasty and a pirate queen. By rape.
  • He Who Fights Monsters: The Tsar reveals himself to have become this, even quoting the Trope Namer word for word. He advises Nikolai to do the same to maintain power.
  • High-Altitude Interrogation: In "The Great Game," when a spy suggests to Jena Makarov the existence of a superweapon that the Makarov Dynasty does not know about as a means of raising his "bargaining power," Jena responds by hanging the spy over a high balcony by his nostrils and demanding he tell her everything he knows about the weapon or be dropped. The spy is killed by intervening assassination droids shortly after he begins spilling the beans.
  • Hive Mind: The Kraken becomes this when Akita Sagawa uses his DNA to create an army of clone ninjas.
  • Hollywood Acid: Nastasia Romanov's weapons crest allows her to produce this.
  • Hollywood Tactics: Tactics have apparently regressed to nineteenth century levels. Dmitri lampshades this, stating that there was a time when the rules of warfare were changed to be more humane and how pointless that was.
  • Impossibly Cool Weapon: Dante's Huntsman 5000 rifle. Coded to his gene print, has internally created ammo and adapts to fire the optimum ammunition to eliminate its target. Should anybody else attempt to fire it, the round will seek out and kill them.
  • Indy Ploy: Nikolai tends to make up plans on the fly, especially in battle. Flintlock lampshades it in a debriefing noting that Nikolai's strategy seems to involve hurling himself at increasingly large numbers of enemy guns.
  • Inter-Class Romance: Galya is a poor peasant girl, while Viktor is a member of the aristocratic Romanov family. Dmitri doesn't take it well.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Arguably, Nikolai. He's a serial womaniser who steals, brawls and boozes his way through life, getting on the nerves of the aristocracy and (at first) looks out only for himself. However, he only steals from those who can afford it and genuinely cares about the poor and downtrodden, helping them wherever possible.
  • Kill the Poor: Nikolai once encountered a countess heavily based on the legends of Elizabeth Bathory who insists that the blood she bathes in is "happily donated" by young women in return for tax exemptions. After Nikolai uncovers a secret lair belonging to the countess in which dozens of young women are being held in captivity and bled for all their worth, it turns out that these particular women are all unemployed and, therefore, couldn't pay any taxes so they get drained wholesale.
  • Klingon Promotion: The title of Tsar Of All The Russias seems to be passed over through revolution many, many times. Nikolai invokes this trope in Rudinshtein in order to save its people.
  • Large Ham: Nikolai.
    • Valentine Romanov becomes one when he unveils his plan. He decides that years of playing cloak and dagger have finally caught up with him and he decides to be hammy For the Lulz.
  • Legacy Character: Before the revolution Major Liberty was a role taken by various genetically engineered Super Soldiers who were only used for propaganda due to the sheer cost of genetic engineering. After the Tsar takes over Amerika, he kills the last official Major and the role is taken on by various Rebel Leaders instead.
  • Loveable Rogue: Nikolai.
  • Meaningful Background Event: Dmitri Romanov's gradual posession of Arkady via his weapons crest
  • Memetic Sex God: Nikolai. "The Dantes" have apparently become in universe slang for testicles.
  • Mother Russia Makes You Strong
  • The Musketeer: Nikolai. Many other characters also.
  • One World Order: By the 27th Century, just about the entire planet is under direct or indirect Russian rule.
  • Our Vampires Are Different: Vampires are not susceptible to garlic, crosses or any of the usual methods. The only ways to deal with vampires are sunlight, fire and steel.
  • Person of Mass Destruction: Konstantin.
  • Phrase Catcher: Nikolai. Damn you, Dante! Damn you to Hell!
  • The Pig Pen: Spatchcock. To the point that when he's attacked by a vampire, his poor hygiene saves his life due to his blood "tasting like piss". and yet he gets a happy ending as he flies off in the sunset with Flintlock's Sister
  • The Plan: Lulu's manipulation of the Cadre Infernale
  • Platonic Life Partners: Nikolai Dante and Elena Kurakin. Dante promotes Elena to Sergeant after she helps him subdue the Grozny gang (and gets them to fight for him). She's his Lancer throughout the war and he later frees her from a gulag and appoints her as his bodyguard when he is appointed Sword Of The Tsar. They continue to fight together right up until the strip's finale where she even accompanies him to his final showdown with the Tsar.
  • Plucky Comic Relief: Spatchcock and Flintlock
  • Pre-Mortem One-Liner: Katarina Dante's Crowning Moment of Awesome when she kills Dmitri
  • Rag Tag Bunch Of Misfits: The Rudinshtein Irregulars.
  • Really Gets Around: Nikolai.
  • Recycled In Space: The strip is a combination Space Cold War and the Russian Revolution using Napoleonic tactics set in the 27th century.
  • Red Baron: Nikolai Dante: Bastard of the Romanovs, Hero of Rudinshtein, The Gentleman Thief, Hero Of The Romanovs, The Most Wanted Man In The Empire, Sword Of The Tsar, Hero Of The Revolution, Tsar Of All The Russias.
  • Red Eyes, Take Warning: Generally, if a member of the Romanov family's face starts showing their cybernetics, run away. Dmitri does this constantly and Nikolai does it just before he stabs Konstantin in the back.
  • Russian Roulette: Nikolai and Vlad play in the finale. Vlad loses.
  • Sensual Slavs: Justified, as Russia is the main setting.
  • Sharing a Body: Dmitri passes his weapons crest and consciousness over to Arkady. Whilst Dmitri is very much in control, Arkady is still in there and Dmitri does indulge him in some of his fantasies, such as his crush on Jena.
  • Shout-Out: Several. Notably, narrators have included names like Georgi Lucasovich and Edward Krilly.
    • Nikolai is at one point attacked by genetically engineered creatures called Kreelers.
  • Sinister Shades: Dmitri Romanov's transluscent shades, which fail to hide his near permanent Death Glare. When he comes forward as having total control over Arkady, he wears them again.
  • Strolling Through the Chaos: Viktor often does this in the middle of a battle and won't fight unless he's really pissed off and certainly won't use his powers unless absolutely necessary.
  • The Silent Bob: Viktor Romanov. The longest Silent Bob in history, completing the trope just 6 episodes before the end of the saga. The only other noises he makes are belches and screeches when he activates his Crest and becomes a huge Romanov Eagle.
  • Slap-Slap-Kiss: The essence of Nikolai and Jena's relationship.
  • That Man Is Dead: Viktor Romanov taking the name Viktor Dante, after Dmitri/Arkady kills his wife Galya. Also Nikolai, after civil war breaks out and he sides against the ruling house of Makarov, taking the name Romanov. Forced on Nikolai by his mother Katarina, when she finds him a broken man, having been de-crested by Dmitri/Arkady; powerless to stop the head of the Romanovs taking Jena Makarov as his own, Nikolai loses himself in the bottom of a bottle, losing all motivation to fight for what he believes in. She refers to him as Nikolai Romanov, disowning him as a son; this turns out to be the kick up the jacksy he needs.
  • They Would Cut You Up: Upon receiving his powers from the Romanov Crest, Nikolai is reluctant to return to the Tsar Makarov for fear that the Tsar's scientists and researchers would do exactly this in order to develop a similar crest of their own.
  • Token Good Team Mate: Nikolai is this to the Romanovs. To a lesser extent, there's Viktor and Andreas pulls a Redemption Equals Death.
  • Upper-Class Twit: Several, but Flintlock stands out.
  • Vitriolic Best Buds: Nikolai and his Weapons Crest. The Crest denounces him at every opportunity, but later begins to warm to him, even coming up with ideas that are very much along Dante's own line of thinking. When the Crest is destroyed, he has a major Heroic BSOD.
  • Weapon of Choice: Each of the Romanovs is given specific abilities, based on their personalities.
  • We Used to Be Friends: Vladimir says this word for word to Dmitri before Dmitri's suicide. They once stood together against the previous Tsar until they disagreed on who would rule after their own revolution.
  • Wretched Hive: Rudinshtein starts off as this, being the poorest city in the empire. New Moscow later becomes one with the Kremlin having being converted into a casino.
  • You Have Failed Me: The Arbatovs are usually on the receiving end of this. Of particular note is the one Nikolai humiliates in the first story, as the Tsar skins him alive.
    • Dmitri decimates one regiment (as in the Roman version of killing ten percent of the troops) when they lose a battle.