Ararat had done an Alderaan, Bad Company had been destroyed, Kano was missing in action. It seemed that was the end for our bunch of psychologically unhinged combatants. But they reckoned without editorial’s desire to satisfy a hungry readership………..
Bad Company : A Potted History 2 of 4
The Bewilderness & The Krool Heart
By Luke Williams
Such was the success of the first 20 issue run of Bad Company that Tharg commissioned another series. But, what Milligan, Ewins and McCarthy did next could hardly be described as a typical war story.
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Part 3 here Part 4 here
The last series seemed to see the end of Bad Company and the war. Ararat was destroyed, in the intervening period, Earth had finally rolled over and died. Little pockets of humaity are scatttered around the galaxy, scrabbling in the dirt, harried at every turn by the Krool. Kano has become a legend and an inspiration for the human resistance.
The earthers who continue to fight back, include Major “Cyclops” Honda the leader of ERA, the Earth Resistance Army. This flotsam and jetsam of humanity recruit Danny, Mac and a now a truly mad, Mad Tommy, to form a new Bad Company, to resist where they can, whilst they can. Their first mission is to stop a giant humanoid terrorising the fragmented human colonies.
Bad Company II has the same cross section of misfits, socio and psychopaths as its predecessor. DeRacine, the elite, supercillious, cybernetically enhanced, patronising, bored and narcissistic; Rackman is a mascochistic former Krool prisoner who survived torture by chasing the pain. Sheeva is the psychically enhanced product of experiments to increase intelligence in unborn babies and finally, there is Protoid the last of a shape changing race second only to the Krool in savagery and sadism, providing insight into Krool society and biology.
Cornering the monster, BC II discover that it’s a mentally unstable Kano.
Protoid explains that Kano’s mind has been “neuroflipping” in and out of the mind of the Krool with which he “shared” his brain. The Krool are a hive mind, controlled by the biological dictatorship of the Krool Heart. The Heart was coming to the end of it’s life, corrupt and senile, but had an deletetrious effect on Kano and his Krool “twin”. The new Krool Heart was growing in the belly of the old, and now was the time to destroy it. Kano’s neuroflipping was the key to destroy the heart (as the House of Love would have it), save humanity and end the war.
The team begin their preparations for their assault on the Krool Heart, but as Kano neuroflips, in his mania, he kills Mad Tommy, his oldest remaining comrade, the man who saved his life and kept the secret of the black box during those years on Ararat.
The Krool Heart
On the way to the Krool heart, the team divert to a small planet where the Krool are tortuing human prisoners in an attempt to distill universal suffering into a “pit of pain”. Fighting to free the humans, Franks falls into the pit and emerges having experienced an epiphany. His fatalism regarding the fate of the human race is replaced by a new optimism, he believe’s there is hope. BC II continue their journey to the Krool Heart, who senses their approach with apprehension.
Kano has begun to exert greater control over his neuroflips, but transferring his mind to his Krool twin is having an physical effect on his human body.
In the final assault, Kano neuroflips into his Krool ” twin”, while the rest of the team begin their assault like a cyberpunk Magnificent 7. Bad Company are on a Damascene journey, as each they meet their fate they have an epiphany or reveal a hidden burden that that has been lifted. Kano is coming to the end of a long road, as is Protoid, who had been using Bad Company to help him reach and take the place of the Krool Heart.
In the final moments of the Heart’s life, it makes a choice between Franks and Protoid, and chooses Franks. Franks takes the place of the Heart’s offspring and becomes the Krool Heart. Franks’ plans for the the Krool and the galaxy are ambiguous. At best he would maintain the status quo, maintaining order as a necessary evil.
The “Bewilderness” and “the Krool Heart” are slower paced and more metaphyiscal than its predecessor. Less war story and more a discussion on the meaning of existence, religion and power. The “Bewilderness” is soaked in despair, the beleaguered human race is at the end of the road, “The Krool Heart” begins as a journey to the heart of darkness, but offers a qualified optimism at its conclusion. Milligan’s scripts are thoughtful, harrowing and humanising and possibly represent the peak of his work in the Prog’, and certainly for this series.
Brett Ewins and Jim McCarthy turn in an exemplary job on design, and with stark and black and white images, imaginative, surreal, and horrific by turns whilst maintaining continuity with the first series.
One off episodes.
A small number of one offs stories appeared around this period,
The excellent “Young Men Marching” appeared in full colour in the 1988 annual as breather between Bewilderness and the seeming resolution to the stort “The Krool Heart”. It follows an embedded journalist with the Earth forces on Ararat who surviivres a Krool attack, only to fall in with Bad Company. He heads back to Earth to tell the population what’s really happening on Ararat, sharing an ill fated troop carrier with Danny’s brothers. It’s a well crafted and compelling prologue to the original strip. The full colour art takes a bit of getting used to, vibrant on the verge of gaudy, no suitably moody muted palette here, but it is suitably unsettling and disorientating.
The second, is set during the Danny’s dreadlock period of his time with Bad Company on Ararat. Dazed and confused following an attack, Danny finds himself buddying up with a Krool, brain damaged and devoid of its natural sadism, to survive. This was an especially interesting 4 page strip drawn in 4 1/2 hours at UKCAC in 1988, the pages auctioned off for charity. Script by Peter Milligan and art by Brett Ewins and his “Deadline” buddy, Steve Dillon, the team for the classic cult proto DC/Vertigo comic “Skreemer”. Brief, but affecting.
Ararat 2000AD Annual 1990 – Text story
Written by Milligan, with illustrations by “The Albert Tatlock Persuasion” and set during the Ararat period of Bad Company with Franks well established within it’s ranks. It baldly explains the allusion to the biblical Ararat in the naming of the planet, and continues the theme of who war changes people irrevocably to what they most fear.
With Franks essentially deified, “The Krool Heart” is a logical conclusion to an unconventional future war story and would have been an ideal place to end the saga. However, Tharg and the creative team had other ideas, although it would be a few years before we saw a return of the strip.
Where to read it:
2000AD Ultimate Collection 52 & 53
2000AD Annual 1989 and 1990
Best of 2000AD issues 101 & 102
2000AD Progs 548- 557, 576 – 585 and 601