Exploring the teetering Tower of Babel and cat hazard that is his reading pile, Luke finally gets to issue 4 of the ‘77.
The ’77 issue 4
Review by Luke
It’s the second bi monthly issue of the ’77, (which is always confusing, shouldn’t that mean every two weeks?), the smash hit action / fantasy / sci fi anthology, but with the time dilating effects of the ‘rona, who can tell how time passes? But it certainly doesn’t seem like two months since issue 3.
Discerning punters can pick from a series of covers. Your reviewer plumped for the Lew Stringer variant cover, redolent of the IPC and DC Thomson annuals of yesteryear. But where cover stars of those annuals had a cheeky grin, the featured characters here have a manic glint in their eye. Cartoony but reflective of what’s inside, the regular cover. Happily, just inside is the regular cover, a more sober “Penny Pentagram” shot. Neat, but not as eye catching.
The 77’s editorial presence has quickly become strong and distinct important in an anthology. Bensky brings the bants with introductions to the comic, heading the letters page. Letters pages are an overlooked and underrated aspect of a comic having largely been replaced by twitface / other social media de jour. So long as they are not filled sycophantic wittering. Readers art doesn’t go amiss either, a nice touch.
Issue 4 opens with Neil Sims’ strong Jim Murray style art on “Bounty on the Mutie”. Exaggerated poses and dynamic page composition saves a story that promises a cleverer ending than in it delivers, sadly.
Jon Rydon’s art has come on leaps and bounds since issue 1’s “Penny Pentagram”. Subtle cel- shading, good rhythm and pacing in the story telling, whilst the story scripted by David Thomas itself has the feel of a kookier version of the spooky girls comics from the late 70’s and early eighties that everyone has (re)discovered. It wouldn’t be out of place in one of Rebellion’s Misty Specials.
Mal Earl’s “Prodigal” returns from its one issue break with a 4 page acid trip. Effectively disorientating art reflecting the dreamy and surreal nature of storyline, but is more of an interlude in a longer story line. It looks lovely, but it’s a little esoteric and the extended gaps between instalments won’t help, probably better read in one sitting.
David Bedford and Mac’s “TheTrackless Depths” seafaring horror mystery has a lovecraftian feel. Whilst there’s not enough engagement with the characters and perhaps after just two issues we’re getting to the mystery a bit too quickly, Mac’s woodcut and graytoned work is beautiful, ethereal and atmospheric, that logo does take some deciphering though.
Andrew Sawyers’s turned the contrast and the colour knob down in this episode of the “The Cell” and the result is very effective. Bambos Georgiou’s plot has taken a left turn from being a nihilistic prison drama to a superhero strip.
The latest episode of gladiatorial revenge drama “V” is another interlude. Ade Hughes visceral art is coloured on this excursion by Darren Stephens. A sterling two page interlude, foreshadowing plots for the future, but not enough of a story on its own.
A “Demon for Dinner” feels like an escapee from Scream with bold, quirky monochrome art by Rupert Lewis Jones. But the twee script from James Tomlinson doesn’t fit in with the edginess of the rest of the package.
Nice article from Jo Heeley on Scarred for Life the website that celebrates all that was creepy about growing up the 70s: weird public information films starring disturbing cats, weird and terrifying TV (Threads – Jesus! Just the idea induced nightmares.). The video nasties scare in the 80s was too little too late, the damage had been done in the 70s. A nice tribute to Dave Prowse bookends article.
“Martian Law”, 6 pages of whimsy on a human settlement on Mars. Brendon Wright’s strip combines a chatty but sharp script with a weirdly enjoyable plot, like reading a sci fi version of a Sunday night drama – interplanetary Heartbeat, with detailed characterful art. Great stuff.
“Undertow”, Jeremy Dunn’s art is akin to that “flat” European style, each page looks like an animation cel – but without much going on in the background. Joe Dunn’s story is progressing at a snail’s pace, and this issue is an extended fight scene. Nice choreography, but 4 pages of just shooting and punching is taking decompression a bit too far, especially with the 2 month gap between episodes. It looks lovely, but needs to pick up the pace a bit.
“Funsshun” by Paul Duncan & Robert Wells is a cyberpunk retelling of the Rapunzel andtries a bit too hard. There are some classic sci fi references, there’s a feeling it has a deep and meaningful message, but perhaps it’s a bit too cryptic, or aimed at those with more experience with Harlan Ellison.
“Division 77” is the swansong of Sinclair Elliot on art – his bold, dynamic, clear art complimented here by Darren Stephens colours, will be missed, particularly as there is only one episode to go. This is another Dave Healey script, but with just two, admittedly busy pages, is just too short.
Finally, we have Lew Stringer’s very silly “Sgt Shouty” Lew Stringer is a pupil of the Leo Baxendale / Tom Paterson school, fun = anarchy. Concentrated gags and energy.
The key is to balance the comic so that there is enough content in the comic to maintain interests and more importantly for its target audience to remember for the next issue. In this issue there’s a bit too much of the little bite sized chunks, which aren’t enough. Admittedly, this is easier said than done. What should be remembered is most of these creators have day jobs, the ’77 is a labour of love, completed to a highly professional standard in the creators’ spare time.
When you consider how many British Comics have crashed and burned over the last 30 years, that’s quite a feat and the creative and editorial teams enthusiasm is laudable.
As ever there is plenty of variety. But on the whole, it feels like the ‘77 (and probably more likely its editorial and creative teams) is catching its breath a bit. Three main strips have truncated episodes, and others that have pacing that is just a bit too slow for a comic with a bi monthly release schedule. Perhaps not as good as previous issues, but still a quality package.