ABC Warriors – A Potted History Part 6 of 6
(plus the merchandise and one shot and spin off round up next week)
The Clint Langley Years
The Volgan Wars : Return To Earth : Return To Mars
A changing of the guard, Henry Flint moves off the strip, and with Mr. Clint Langley at the drawing board (or rather PC/Mac) the strip moves back to painted art.
Clint Langley had been around for years, he’d first worked with Mills on the one off Dinosty series, before moving onto a short run on Nemesis, a spot on “Holocaust 12” in the Megazine, a coloured (as against painted) run on Slaine, before he really made his name using his CGI photo realistic style on the same strip a years later. Mills seemingly takes inspiration from artists, and Langely’s arrival inspired a change in direction and strips with a more political hue (not that Pat ever shies away from such things).
“The Volgan Wars” starts just where the “Shadow Warriors” run ends, Mek Quake is sectioned to Broadband Asylum on the grounds that he has finally completely flipped. The Warriors already have a replacement in mind; a robot they have all met at one time or another during the Volgan Wars; Z / Zippo a flame breathing special forces robot, who is now partial to a a bit of insurrection (and clearly inspired by Banksy) – graffiti.
Meanwhile, the only half demented but still completely sadistic Mek Quake has discovered the presence of Volkhan the leader of the Volgan robot army leader.
Volkhan has been in captivity for years, but now stirs, and begins influencing the easily and willingly manipulated Mek Quake, and whilst the Warriors are on their way to Marineris City / Mekana to rescue Z from the Confederacy and its’ secret police, led by Doctor Grobari, and Detektiv Sturn. In the meantime Volkhan gathers his forces to take his revenge on the Warriors. The Warriors are fighting on two fronts.
Mek Quake is not the only Warrior to change sides. With his wartime leader returned, Blackblood returns to the Volgan fold and falls in behind Volkhan. Needless to say, as is common in recent ABC Warriors stories, they get a complete tuning. However, thanks to some nifty foreshadowing in books 1 & 2, they are saved by Steelhorn, kicking arse and taking names.
“The Volgan War” sees the first references to the mysterious Tubal Cain the robot repairer, who will become very significant in later books; and the over due return of Ro Jaws (who just seemed to have exited stage left, with no by or leave).
The next run followed quite quickly in “ABC Warriors” terms, considering the detail in the artwork, Langley must be pulling long shifts. “Return To Earth” is an extended flashback of how Hammerstein left Mars after the Warriors’ initial mission, and returned to Terra on a one way mission to end war and prevent further deaths of former ABC Warriors and “floppies” (humans) : by assassinating the US president, but not before fighting his way through war droid mark IVs – his replacements.
He runs into Howard Quartz himself, nicely dovetailing into recent books of Savage (hmmm, Millsverse timeline – now there’s an idea) who almost derails his mission, if Hammerstein succeeded Quartz would be ruined, his arms firms would be worthless. He encounters Howard one more time, when Quartz buys him and places him with the “Disaster Squad of Distinction”.
The end of the run sees the Warriors off for another refit with Tubal Cain, the last page revealing that Cain is actually previously thought dead & buried / scrap metal : Happy Shrapnel, now sans speech impediment and lacking the necessary taste for mayhem to be a member of the ABC Warriors.
Bringing us right up to date, “Return to Mars” answers some of the questions as to why the Warriors left the non stop party at the end of “Hellbringer”, and why (though perhaps not how) they returned to Mars at a point years after the end of their last mission to the planet, but not quite in the far flung future of the “Khronicles of Khaos”.
Happy /Tubal has been re spawned as Steelhorn was, as an agent of Medusa and adopts a human boy, a genetic throwback from Humpies (descendants of the first human settlers on Mars). His son is attacked by the reactionary, puritan like elders, of the Humpy community and Tubal comes out of retirement to take revenge. But he is confronted by the remarkably mentally sprightly Howard Quartz (centuries after his appearance as owner of Ro Busters) with Mek Quake in tow, newly installed as his bodyguard. Mek Quake makes short work of Cain, leaving him for dead. Needless to say he isn’t, and Cain rejoins the Warriors setting the scene for a showdown in the next book
Mills shifts the tone considerably in these three storylines. He comments on, amongst other things, the nature of war, the two world wars (known here as the 1st and 2nd oil war), big businesses influence on government,and organised religion’s capacity for cruelty.Basically, Mills’ favourite themes just with added guns and AI. He occasionally comes across as a bit preachy (who’d have thought it?), and the strip beings to transform into a cyber punk “Third World War”. It’s still great fun, definitely pushing the nostalgia button, but more to the point, the strip has direction again.
Clint Langley’s art is astonishing. Far better suited to this than to “American Reaper”. The design work and composition is fabulous, though the colour work suffers from the usual complaints with full colour / painted work and can be far too dark and occasionally suffers from a lack of clarity. His black and white work harkens back to some of the earlier artist, and has echoes of John Hicklenton’s work on Nemesis, with clever use of the occasional smattering of colour.
Where next? Who knows? But expect robots beating each other senseless and political commentary – two topics close to the heart of Pat Mills.
Of course, something that we haven’t covered are the spin offs, one offs, and apocryphal stories that sit outside the main saga. Which I will deal with in the epilogue (AKA part 7 for those who plan these things better than I have).