ABC Warriors – A Potted History 3 of 6
The Black Hole Mission
It’s around here that it’s pretty clear that they were heading into their own strip – trailed by a rather spiffy Simon Harrison Joe Pineapples pin up.
For me it’s a close run thing between this and the first series as my favourite ABC Warriors series. Here, I think Pat Mills embraced the new maturity of 2000ad, lots of ideas are thrown in along the usual ABC/Ro Buster themes of class : human / robot “relations”, feminism, and sows the seeds for Mills’ mid nineties obsession with paganism and matriarchy. More time is spent on character development in this series than in the 25 years since. Mills took the opportunity to flesh out more of Hammerstein’s past, reveals the otherwise ice cool Joe’s inadequacies and insecurity, Blackblood’s ruthlessness, his desire for revenge on the robot that “killed” him and his hatred for Hammerstein, Mongrol’s lack of hope, Mek Quake’s “courage issues”, Deadlock’s own personal agenda and conflict with the square jawed Hammerstein. Meanwhile, Ro Jaws provides comic relief.
The Warriors are pursued through the time wastes by the Mekaniks, robots designed to protect the control room. It’s from them that they recruit their first female member “Terri”,as according to Deadlock, Ro Jaws is deemed not to be suitable as a warrior.
The warriors enter the wastes heading for the control room, where they are met by Deadlock sent by his master Nemesis to assist them, which in itself causes conflict in the group. Who is the real leader? Stoic, square jawed duty bound Hammerstein, or the ambiguous, secretive and newly returned Deadlock?
The Warriors have to take a diversion from the time wastes and emerge at an Earth a few thousand years earlier than Termight. Here, The warriors cross the robot hating Major Savard of the “eternals” who pursues them through the time wastes, but accompanied by a disguised “Monad” the distilled psyche of future humans destroyed by the Terminators (just read Nemesis Book 5 – it’ll all become clear) to prevent them causing any more damage to the time wastes. In the process, Deadlock’s real agenda becomes apparent, he feels betrayed by his master Nemesis who he feels seeks to restore order to the galaxy. Deadlock wants to allow the white and black holes to collide destroying the Earth and fulfilling Thoth’s plan and sterilising the galaxy, returning it to Khaos, Blackblood and Mek Quake’s sadistic nature make them natural allies.
Two artists run the whole show. The star is Simon Bisley (credited in the initial episodes as “Steve Bisley”). Highly kinetic in style; if art can be noisy, this is the comic equivalent of a Megadeth gig. Under Bisley’s pen the Warriors gain new musculature, and become more caricatures of their original designs as Bisley’s style visibly and rapidly develops. Bisley’s characters reflect the type of story that Mills has written for him. Equally, Mills riffs off Bisley’s interpretations – Joe becomes a shade wearing, leather jacket donning uber assassin with unlikely musical taste (The Doors?),Deadlock becomes even more mysterious, more supernatural being than robot, Hammerstein gains a body builder frame, Mongrol becomes more simian, Ro Jaws – is just plain disgusting.
SMS’s art is more classically sci fi, and is used to good effect. His robot designs harken back to the Warriors’s sojourn with the Warlock. Where Bisley illustrated the action sequences, SMS illustrates the quieter, more reflective moments. Particularly effective is a passage where Hammerstein reflects on his early days, starring a very familiar psychoanalyst of robots. That’s not to say he doesn’t contribute some spectacular art, his rendition of the eternal city has shades of the great Kev’s work on Nemesis Book One.
If you can look over the glaring continuity gaffes in the art (the Warriors themselves look very different under the two artists), it looks glorious.
Anyhoo, without spoiling anything, it all ends well. The Warriors internal conflict ends in an uneasy truce and they reunite to defeat the combined forces of Major Savard’s human forces and the rampant and incredibly powerful Monad who wishes to sacrifice the universe in the name of evil, rather than the amoral force that drives Deadlock. (Almost) all of them get away (unlucky Terri. Or should that be “pancake”?) in Emperor Zalinn’s starship
………and we have a break again, and this time things get a tad more slapstick.