Luke takes a look at the latest (ish – been a few weeks now) release from the stable of the mega successful 77, the homage to boys adventure comics Blazer, brainchild of 2000AD editor Steve MacManus.
Written by Steve MacManus art by Dan Cornwell, Colin Maxwell, Peter Western, Filippo & Andrew Richmond.
Lettering by Andrew Richmond.
Review by Luke Williams
From the people who brought you the 77, comes Blazer, a new anthology harking back to the comics of the 70s, each strip written by former “Tharg” Steve MacManus. Everything about the comic is meant to be evocative of that period when “compressed storytelling” was just “story telling”. That mad, period when no concept was considered too farfetched, where mad storylines, unfeasible plots and cramming in as much as you could into 4 pages was the rule.
It follows the comics of that day with each story having a different theme. Second World War action in “Godwins’Law” the tale of a one eyed motorcycling preacher in the Burma jungle. Crime, in the Rockford Files alike “Derringer and Son” starring the titular Vietnam vet’ and his ward.
Horror and supernatural is served when a young girl discovers her ring has supernatural powers in “Domenica’s Ring”. Sport is catered for with Kenny Fortrose investigating murders at his football club in the ”Boot Room Boy”, and finally comedy with US cop and British Bobby swap bodies in the Face Off meets ” Hot Fuzz” of “Sheriffs of Nottingham”.
McManus’ plots and scripts for each of the strips are anachronistic, but that is kind of the point. Stable mate “77” was originally pitched as a nostalgia package, but has quickly moved on from that. Blazer on the other hand doubles down on the nostalgia. Stories move on swiftly, there’s no hanging about, lots of action and plot development in the 5-6 pages of each strip.
Of the strips here, the clear winner is “Godwin’s Law”, which frankly is just bonkers in concept with art lovingly executed by Dan Cornwell.
This is followed closely by Peter Western’s striking characterisations, dynamic layouts and atmospheric colouring in “Domenica’s Rings”. “Boot Room Boy” feels a bit conventional apart from the dark ending,
“Derringer and So’n” reads like the 70s / 80s PI TV drama it strives to be, both “Boot Room” and “Derringer” could do with a dose of “Godwin’s” outrageousness. Aside from weird story logic, it’s not clear what “Sheriffs of Nottingham” wants to be : a “Vice Versa” / “Freaky Friday” identity comedy or something more serious. Sterling lettering throughout the comic by Andrew Richmond, until he begins to replicate the typed lettering style of the 70s. Some things are better left in the past.
This is a beautifully presented package, down to the paper stock and the balance between black and white and colour in the strips. It has a strong and distinct editorial personality (and a member of the editorial team will be very familiar to followers of ECBT2000AD )and like any good anthology its own mythology and world, making the reader feel that they are part of a gang as they would have in boys’ comics of the 70s and 80s.
Nostalgia fest, yes; but great, escapist fun. We could all do with a bit of that.