The last Prog before the next jumping on point and two Nick Percival covers provide a good opportunity to revive some head to head reviewing.
ABC Warriors – A Potted History 3 of 6
The Black Hole Mission
It’s around here that it’s pretty clear that they were heading into their own strip – trailed by a rather spiffy Simon Harrison Joe Pineapples pin up.
For me it’s a close run thing between this and the first series as my favourite ABC Warriors series. Here, I think Pat Mills embraced the new maturity of 2000ad, lots of ideas are thrown in along the usual ABC/Ro Buster themes of class : human / robot “relations”, feminism, and sows the seeds for Mills’ mid nineties obsession with paganism and matriarchy. More time is spent on character development in this series than in the 25 years since. Mills took the opportunity to flesh out more of Hammerstein’s past, reveals the otherwise ice cool Joe’s inadequacies and insecurity, Blackblood’s ruthlessness, his desire for revenge on the robot that “killed” him and his hatred for Hammerstein, Mongrol’s lack of hope, Mek Quake’s “courage issues”, Deadlock’s own personal agenda and conflict with the square jawed Hammerstein. Meanwhile, Ro Jaws provides comic relief.
The Warriors are pursued through the time wastes by the Mekaniks, robots designed to protect the control room. It’s from them that they recruit their first female member “Terri”,as according to Deadlock, Ro Jaws is deemed not to be suitable as a warrior.
The warriors enter the wastes heading for the control room, where they are met by Deadlock sent by his master Nemesis to assist them, which in itself causes conflict in the group. Who is the real leader? Stoic, square jawed duty bound Hammerstein, or the ambiguous, secretive and newly returned Deadlock?
The Warriors have to take a diversion from the time wastes and emerge at an Earth a few thousand years earlier than Termight. Here, The warriors cross the robot hating Major Savard of the “eternals” who pursues them through the time wastes, but accompanied by a disguised “Monad” the distilled psyche of future humans destroyed by the Terminators (just read Nemesis Book 5 – it’ll all become clear) to prevent them causing any more damage to the time wastes. In the process, Deadlock’s real agenda becomes apparent, he feels betrayed by his master Nemesis who he feels seeks to restore order to the galaxy. Deadlock wants to allow the white and black holes to collide destroying the Earth and fulfilling Thoth’s plan and sterilising the galaxy, returning it to Khaos, Blackblood and Mek Quake’s sadistic nature make them natural allies.
Two artists run the whole show. The star is Simon Bisley (credited in the initial episodes as “Steve Bisley”). Highly kinetic in style; if art can be noisy, this is the comic equivalent of a Megadeth gig. Under Bisley’s pen the Warriors gain new musculature, and become more caricatures of their original designs as Bisley’s style visibly and rapidly develops. Bisley’s characters reflect the type of story that Mills has written for him. Equally, Mills riffs off Bisley’s interpretations – Joe becomes a shade wearing, leather jacket donning uber assassin with unlikely musical taste (The Doors?),Deadlock becomes even more mysterious, more supernatural being than robot, Hammerstein gains a body builder frame, Mongrol becomes more simian, Ro Jaws – is just plain disgusting.
SMS’s art is more classically sci fi, and is used to good effect. His robot designs harken back to the Warriors’s sojourn with the Warlock. Where Bisley illustrated the action sequences, SMS illustrates the quieter, more reflective moments. Particularly effective is a passage where Hammerstein reflects on his early days, starring a very familiar psychoanalyst of robots. That’s not to say he doesn’t contribute some spectacular art, his rendition of the eternal city has shades of the great Kev’s work on Nemesis Book One.
If you can look over the glaring continuity gaffes in the art (the Warriors themselves look very different under the two artists), it looks glorious.
Anyhoo, without spoiling anything, it all ends well. The Warriors internal conflict ends in an uneasy truce and they reunite to defeat the combined forces of Major Savard’s human forces and the rampant and incredibly powerful Monad who wishes to sacrifice the universe in the name of evil, rather than the amoral force that drives Deadlock. (Almost) all of them get away (unlucky Terri. Or should that be “pancake”?) in Emperor Zalinn’s starship
………and we have a break again, and this time things get a tad more slapstick.
In the finest tradition of synopses masquerading as reviews, here is Orlok with his take on 1922…
The next two volumes in the Mega Collection arrive bearing gifts in the form of some Judge Dredd coasters and two books that could be excellent contenders for that always tricky dilemma of what to hand to a new reader in the hopes of luring them in to the world of Dredd.
First off, Origins by John Wagner, Carlos Ezquerra, Kev Walker and Colin MacNeil, with that famous Brian Bolland cover image. This does an excellent job of covering the back story that led to the Judges taking control of America while at the same time showing how Joe Dredd’s character has developed since those early years. And along the way there’s plenty of kickass action with cursed earth mutant gangs, deluded townships, and some bonkers robots. This is easy to review as it has several of the 2000AD elite creators all performing at the top of their game. The reproduction is perfect and there are some extra features with sketches by Carlos, an introduction by Matt Smith and a nice afterword by Michael Molcher. I think this is a great book to hand to a Dredd newbie and in fact that is what I plan to do with these volumes once they overtake the space I have available for them (about now in other words).
The Anderson Shamballa volume is similarly beautiful to hold and behold. Alan Grant explores all his interest in mystical matters while Arthur Ranson’s artwork is simply stunning. As well as Shamballa this also includes the stories The Jesus Syndrome, Satan, The Protest, and R*Volultion.
Again it is all beautifully produced with another Matt Smith introduction and a very interesting five page essay by Mr Molcher. I have a friend who is into French and other European comics and I think I’m going to pass this one on to him as Ranson’s glorious art reminds me of some of the work produced by Moebius and other European artists.
The Mega Collection continues to impress and excite.
After a long few months in exile wearing a shirt made out of Rich’s pubes, here is Orlok with his take on 1921. The Prog, that is, not the year. I mean we’re not a website for reviewing historical events. Although it was the year that Hitler became Fuhrer of the Nazi party and also the year that the first White Castle opened. Coincidence or conspiracy? I’ll leave you to decide…
Scary creatures with sharp teeth sell comics, or at least they did back in the late seventies. Pat Mills and Ken Armstrong created Hook Jaw for the launch of Action comics in 1976 as a direct attempt to cash in on the success of the first summer blockbuster Jaws. Although Action had a short lived and controversial run it was one of the forerunners of 2000AD, and the popularity of the swimming killing machine led Mills to create another fearsome beastie in the form of Shako, the lethal polar bear on the CIA’s most wanted list which débuted in Prog 20.
Egmont classics produced a restored digital version of the first six episodes of Hook Jaw written by Ken Armstrong, The original art by Ramon Sola has been sensitively coloured by Gary Caldwell and re-lettered by
Eisner Eagle award nominated Jim Campbell. I bought it fairly cheaply through the Sequential comics app and I believe it is also available for the Kindle. The four page episodes follow a fairly standard pattern; plenty of lambs to the slaughter; a loud mouthed hothead who wants to kill the shark at any cost; and the calmer, clean cut hero who acts as the reader’s focal point and narrates much of the action. According to Egmont Hook Jaw was consistently the most popular strip in Action.
Sola’s artwork is fabulous and Caldwell has done a lovely job of bringing it to life with a suitably bloody colour palette. It’s a nice job by the restoration team and the only downside is that there is no more available in this digital format. This was a 2013 release so it’s possible that sales weren’t enough to justify further issues?
Shako retreads familiar ground with a similar loud mouth, a native american hero, and a big beastie who is confused by all these humans running around but finds them to be a rather tasty snack. I read the digital collection on the 2000AD iPad app but the trade paperback version is still available. Written by Pat Mills and John Wagner, Ramon Sola was again the go to guy to draw the first episode. Juan Arancio takes over for chapters 2-4, later on the art chores are handled by Dodderio and Lopez-Vera who are perhaps a bit bland in comparison for my taste. Both of the fierce animal stories contain many examples of the showing and telling that was common in kids’ adventure comics back then, particularly when it comes to scenes of people being consumed by the monster while narrating their own demise.
The Shako volume benefits from having all of the stories that appeared in the Progs and the 1978 annual story, White Fury. It also has a couple of gallery images including the striking Jock cover for the trade paperback. I gather there may be a few issues with repositioning of the title logo on some of the pages for the reprint but I’ll leave that for the experts to comment on. The raw black and white art is fine stuff and I’m again caught in a cleft stick between original monochrome or the lovingly restored and coloured work on Hook Jaw.
Although Hook Jaw was the forerunner I’ll give the edge to Shako just for completeness in one volume, but they are both nice collections that are well worth a look.