In order to speed things up, let's skip ahead to the second album, which is a full-length story, and really showcases the kind of insanity Red Ketchup is capable of. However, I should make a small warning. There's a certain amount of violence and nudity that may be disturbing to some audiences. I've done some tasteful censorship of certain words and images, though readers of cute stuff may be put off by what happens here.
You have been warned.
With that public announcement out of the way, let's get on with the latest story. Red Ketchup's latest mission takes him to the far reaches of the South Pole where he's spying a robotic penguin taking photos of a camp. From there, he relentlessly follows the robot penguin so he can destroy the evidence before it reaches the Russian base.
The reason he's been assigned to the furthest depths of the end of the world is because he's being punished for using "unnecessary roughness" in his past missions. The chief figures that Red Ketchup can't possibly get himself into any trouble this far south of the border, and won't hear from him for a long time.
Something that should be pointed out is that Red Ketchup is only dressed in his trademark blue suit and tie. He's not wearing a parka, snowshoes or any kind of winter gear that would be required for this kind of weather. Hell, he's not even wearing boots.
All of this is just a minor inconvenience to him. As long as he's got his personal medicine cabinet with him, he's happy. As he continues his fruitless pursuit of a solitary robot wandering the vast wasteland of the Arctic North, against all odds, he finds the droid he's looking for. Unfortunately, the camouflage works extraordinary well in this favor.
Since Red Ketchup can't tell one penguin apart from another, he decides to play it safe and shoot ALL of them. After firing the first few rounds, he moves around constantly so they can't counter-attack his current position. While the penguins are in a state of confusion, he adds to the chaos by using napalm grenades and then gunning down the straggling survivors.
Meanwhile, the robot penguin walks by unnoticed.
At the Russian base, a female agent, Olga Dynamo, inspects the latest elite soldiers to arrive from her home country. She's been assigned to train her these men to become Camarade Ultra, the Russian equivalence of an Übermensch, or Superman. The last batch of soldiers weren't strong enough to meet her expectations, and she hopes the latest batch will be adequate enough to the task. Her first command is that all her new men strip down and do three laps around the base. The courier protests, since it's minus 50 degrees, at which point Olga calmly reveals herself to be a proud member of the Polar Bear club.
What I particularly like apart from the gender-equivalent nudity is that we've been introduced to a potentially strong female character, and rather than tease us with the thought of what she'd look like naked, they go ahead and actually do it. With that out of the way, we can focus on more important things. Red Ketchup's generally pleased with his personal genocide, until he notices a pair of tracks facing away from his little holocaust.
His job's not finished yet. He follows the tracks to the Russian base where he proceeds to make short work of the lax security there. He sets a fire, barricades the researchers behind a door, then proceeds to crush the robot penguin with a steam shovel.
Job accomplished, he then goes on to deplete the infirmary of its resources to the horrified reactions of his spectators. Olga in particular is taken with the destruction this solitary man's capable of. However, her admiration can only last so long against the face of someone endangering the safety of her men. She retaliates by shoots flares at him.
|"Bright light! My only weakness!"|
Even blinded, Red Ketchup continues to fight off his pursuers. Olga notices the firehose and gets the idea to douse him in subzero temperatures. The trick works.
The survivors and corpses are regulated to the infirmary where Olga Dynamo is amazed to find out that Red Ketchup is still alive. She orders the doctor to focus on him since he's a valuable speciman and would be of immense value of research for "Comerade Ultra". If the secret behind what makes Red Ketchup ticks is cracked, their team of Russian soldiers would be unstoppable.
Of course, that's easier said than done. A mixture of antifreeze in his veins is enough to bring some colour back into his bloodshot red eyes. Foolishly leaving him alone to recover, Red Ketchup regains conscious just long enough to inject the tubing into the doctor's vodka bottle. Once the good doctor's incapitated, his corpse is used as a decoy body double while Red Ketchup makes good his escape. He looks to be in pretty good shape for someone on the verge of death.
Back in America, the chief's joy over not hearing from Red Ketchup in six days is cut short over a special news announcement that there's been a surplus of Soviets in the Antartic area. The chief wonders what Ketchup's done this time. A GreenPeace party sees the result of the penguin genocide, and notices overhead planes flying, and feels that somebody must be responsible. So far, nobody's admitting to anything.
Just imagine the fuss that'd be made if they'd used snow seals instead. Meanwhile, Red Ketchup continues to strangle every penguin he comes across, "just to be sure."
While Olga's following his trail, she wonders why he's killing these penguins if he's not bothering to eat them? However, Olga's snowmobile is heard across the vast expanse, and Red Ketchup takes cover. When he sees the Russian in pursuit, he hides in a proper vantage point, and leaps on her from behind, and the two of them get engaged in an equal scuffle on the icy flow. The two of them are evenly matched, with neither of them gaining the upper hand. However, their feud is cut short when a Russian submarine rises up from the ice to intercept.
While Olga gets acquainted with her camarades, Red Ketchup is detained and held prisoner in the hold...
...for the duration of one page.
How he managed to free himself isn't shown, but that's not important right now. What's important is that he's already killed a dozen men, and holed himself up in the submarine missile control room, where he's taking extreme delight at firing at communist boats using their own weapons back on them.
Just as the remaining soldiers on the sub manage to burn through the iron door, Red Ketchup rests his finger on the armed nuclear weapon button aimed at Moscow, unless the crew surrenders and they divert their path toward Hawaii.
"Is he bluffing?"
"You really want to find out?"
While the captain protests, Olga notices that the wiring to the nuclear weapons has been cut, making Red Ketchup's demands an empty threat. She intervenes by crossing the wires, short-circuiting Red Ketchup in the process.
"Is he dead?"
"I doubt it. I'm beginning to know him!"
Having found the only method that can possibly restrain Red Ketchup, he's dosed with a constant burst of electricity throughout his body. Red Ketchup is ferried to a secret laboratory for illegal research.
So far, the only proven method to control the man is by using electroshock therapy. If he does anything without being told to, he'll get an electric shock. If he tries to remove the headset himself, it'll automatically shock him.
The man examining Red Ketchup turns out to be a Nazi doctor from Auschwitz who talks to a blow-up doll in his spare time. When Olga learns of this, she becomes revolted at the idea of working with a war criminal, but continues to do experiments, even as she lectures Herr Doktor to stop examining Red Ketchup for his perverted views.
The director wonders what Red Ketchup has to offer. He's not very strong... and he's not as fast as the competition. But what Red Ketchup can do is digest more drugs than anybody. After pill-popping the champion under the table, and sampling a few of his leftovers, the director has had enough of wasting his good men, and wants some results from these experiments. He orders Olga to follow the Nazi doctor's instructions, even though she disagrees with him.
So far, his latest plot is to have Olga seduce Red Ketchup while the director and Doktor watch the results through a one-way mirror in the next room. As far as ideas go, this isn't too bad, though it's kind of a waste of Olga's talents.
However, the results aren't looking too promising. Even though Olga's practically throwing herself half-naked at him, he's displaying as much response as a bored schoolkid in history class. She'd have more success from a statue.
Sensing that she's not going anywhere this route, Olga offers to turn off the electric current around his head, so he'll trust her better, and be free to follow his own desires, the results of which can be seen below. I've replaced Red Ketchup's junk with something more suitable regarding his genitalia. Don't worry - his penis doesn't look like that, though it's be infinitely more horrifying if it did.
After clocking Olga, Red Ketchup hightails it out of there, with his clothes in tow, and Olga upset over being spied on, hurls a brick through the one-way window and punches the Nazi doctor out since she's had enough of him. Red Ketchup suits up very quickly (a new record!) and proceeds to break out of the laboratory, hijack a tourist bus and make his way to the main capital. From the reports of his current path, Olga deducts that he's headed in the direction of the Kremlin. Along the way, Red Ketchup gets sidetracked by a poster that enhances his worst fears.
In his mind's eye, he envisions a nation of Communist penguins that threatens the existence of a free world. While he makes his way to the aquarium, the barricade of Russian soldiers wonder what's keeping him. After a quick look at the surroundings of his last known position, Olga sees the commercial poster, and realizes where their fugitive's gone to.
At this point, Red Ketchup's already broken into the aquarium without paying admission.
"Where are those blasted birds?"
Once he's found his target, he begins resuming his mission long past its sell-by date. While he's engaged, the army's already converged upon his current location and begun opening fire. If you've ever wondered why you're not allowed firearms in a SeaWorld exhibit, the following pages should show you why.
While Red Ketchup punches out an octopus, Olga does one better and manages to capture him in a fishing net in the confusion.
"You've caught a snapping Red Ketchup! What are you going to do with him now?"
A few days later, a mysterious box arrives at the Pentagon. A customary search reveals no explosives or any harmful devices. It's only after opening it that the chief sees the contents that he'd prefer the bomb. Apparently, they decided it'd be wiser to return Red Ketchup to the authorities, since he'd be more of a menace to the Americans than the Russians.
It was this volume that I began to truly appreciate the insanity and destruction of Red Ketchup. I was too young to appreciate it when it first came out, and it's a good thing it's being reprinted again, though they lack the intensity of the original covers.