The final part of the 4 part retrospective of Bad Company. Bad Company had been away for a while, the reboot had faltered. But when it did return to the Prog’, it was a significantly changed strip.
Bad Company: A Potted History. 4 of 4
By Luke Williams
The reboot that was meant to begin with “Saving Private Franks” was delayed. But finally, with Prog 1950, Bad Company returned to 2000AD. Rufus Dayglo took over pencilling duties following the sad passing of Brett Ewins. It saw a change in direction and the reintroduction of some old characters
Its ten years since Victory on Ararat Day. Mankind is finally at peace. The remaining members of Bad Company, Franks, a miraculously resurrected Thrax, Flytrap & Mad Tommy find themselves in a veteran’s home treated for psychosis.
A seemingly long dead and even more war ravaged Kano returns to the group having seemingly escaped death on the planet of the Krool Heart.
The authorities on an equally inexplicably extant Earth decide that even heavily sedated, Kano cannot possibly reintegrate into society and set out to destroy him.
Bad Company, (Lazarus section) regroup to rescue Kano, and discover a conspiracy over the massacre of “Min Town”, a small human settlement on Ararat which directly led to the Krool War. Picking up new member “Golgotha Joe”, a veteran with the ability to project a psychic manifestation of his physical body.
Kano et al find themselves on the run, seeking the truth behind the massacre. The series ends, firmly establishing Bad Company as outcasts and outlaws, wanted and hunted by the establishment.
“Terrorists” is a direct continuation of “First Casualties”. BC are still on the run, but are now accompanied by their psychologist Doctor Malarkey who administers “psych chem” as needed, as Kano becomes more bullet hole than human.
BC identify a General Crowley as the officer behind the massacre at Min Town, and head off in pursuit fighting off the authorities as they go.
Along the way, the encounter a radically different and mutilated Mac who has become a contestant in the future’s version of UFC if you added sharp objects.
Mac duly recovered, the addled and battle scarred squad fight off the authorities secret weapons, like Ghost Division.
Mac does a Louis Mayer, they reach their objective and that is where we leave them. Thankfully.
To say that these two stories are a departure from the tone of the original series is an understatement . Both strips are busy and action packed, eschewing the subtlety and nuance of their forerunners
Much of this change can be levelled at the artist. Rufus Dayglo is talented with an energetic, anarchic style, but is not suited to a moody future war strip, despite the presence of original inker Jim McCarthy. It isn’t even a reimagining in the way Bryan Talbot took over from Kevin O’Neill on Nemesis The Warlock as that worked by maintaining the tone of the series. This reads like Bad Company by way of Tank Girl . Despite Dayglo flying solo in there appears to be little difference in the artistic style between “Terrorists” it’s immediate predecessor. Dom Regan’s colours are effective and lurid, but the damage to the atmosphere of the strip is irrepairable.
However, the perhaps the contributor who has the most responsibility for the change would be writer Peter Milligan. Milligan created the characters with Ewins and McCarthy, he has guided them throughout. So it seems bizarre he made weird decisions like resurrecting Mad Tommy and Flytrap and explaining it away in a panel apiece, although perhaps we should be grateful , Thrax doesn’t even get that. Perhaps the most ridiculous resurrections since Pa & Junior Angel.
There are bizarre continuity errors, Earth seemingly still exists although it was referred to being destroyed at the beginning of “The Bewilderness”, members of BC act out of character. It feels like an American comics “hard reboot”, taking the bits he can continue to work with and disposing of the bits that are” inconvenient”. It’s like the events of “The Bewilderness &”The Krool Heart” never took place.
If you aren’t bothered by continuity there are other elements that may irritate. Milligan’s scripts are a far cry from the studied introspection of the yore. Milligan is known for his wit and wordplay, but the dialogue here is occasionally execrable. Kano in particular sounds bombastic and cliched, rather than terse. Story logic goes out the window : disturbed war veterans (pre fugitive status) running around armed to the teeth.
The message remains the same, war is hell, glorification of conflict is abhorrent and that the establishment uses war as tool for their own ends. But where previously Milligan used a scalpel to pick these concepts apart, this time he uses a chainsaw. Tension and empathy are noticeable by their absence, the characters reduced to ciphers.
Bad Company is the perfect example of the law of diminishing returns. If you plotted quality on a graph, the quality of the strip drops off significantly after “Kano” and plummets with “First Casualties”. A faint echo of a once mighty strip.
The ending of “Terrorists” leaves it open for more series. Hopefully Tharg, Milligan et al, will see that sometimes strips have had their time and need to be left well alone.
Where to read it (if you must)
2000AD Progs 1950 – 1961
2000AD Progs 2061-2072