So, yeah, ‘happy new year’ and all that, eh? Do I have resolutions? I RESOLVE TO MAKE MORE POSTS. I also resolve to be more outrageously camp, which might just result in me becoming a never-nude.
So, you know, exciting times.
I’ve been reading a lot of comics recently. Some of them were collections of stories from top British comic, 2000AD, from different eras of its publication history. Invasion!! Red Razors! Zombo! How about I write some things about them, in chronological order?
1. THE DISTANT PAST OF 2000AD
INVASION! by Pat Mills, Gerry Finley-Day, Nick Flynn, Chris Lowder, Jesus Blasco, Sarompas, Pat Wright, Mike Dorey, Carlos Pino, Eric Bradbury…
Invasion! is a late-70s story about a lorry driver who joins the resistance movement against the Volgan (Russian) occupation of Britain. Here is his origin story:
Yeah, Savage! Calm down! They were just your family, that’s all!
Anyway, Savage then goes about shooting a bunch of ‘Dirty volgs’, with his ‘good british steel’, and it’s all a bit jingoistic and gets perilously close to being really dodgy. I realise it’s the rhetoric of the war comic (Commando, Battle etc.), and Savage IS an ‘authentic’ ‘bloke’ who has just had his family murdered, and it’s plausible he’d be a bit ‘un-pc’ about things, but I just worry that it’s often us being asked to give in to xenophobia and just uncritically ‘go with it’.
Not sure how that stuff’s handled in the modern Savage stories cropping up in the current 2000ADs, but I’m hoping he’s sometimes portrayed as not being completely right about everything, as he is here? Every story in this book goes like this: There’s some plan to fight the Volgans, Savage says it’s a bad idea, but it goes ahead anyway. The plan goes wrong because of toffs/bureaucrats/cowards, and Savage then uses his good old-fashioned no-nonsense common sense skills to succeed where they fucked up.
I became aware as I went on that there were no female characters to speak of, either, until two show up, problematically. One is a Scottish wrestler called ‘Nessie’, who is intriniscally hilarious/grotesque, apparently, as she is a bit overweight. The other is an eeeevil Volgan who is also overweight, which makes her even worse as a person, obviously.
Fucking hell, the Volgans. Two-dimensional (if that) villains that never do anything that isn’t totally nasty and evil, so when Savage shoots them up a treat, we don’t have to worry about any nasty moral grey areas.
I sound like I didn’t enjoy this comic, don’t I? I totally did enjoy it, though. Fast-paced, filled with great/awful violence jokes (“hello sailor…and GOODBYE!” as he shoots a Volgan at the docks), and also pleasingly grim and horrible, in that way early 2000AD did so well.
The art, too, is solid and readable, and is pretty much done in a traditional kind of boy’s comic style which has its moments, but lacks the hott ‘thrillpower’ that the best 2000AD artists have, where you genuinely feel you’re seeing something that looks completely unique in comics? Thrillpower is hard to define. Hmmmn.
My favourite image in the whole comic is this one, though:
MORE UNIFORM BEEFCAKE, COMICS.
Oh, this comic also had some Scottish dialect in it, which is always welcome.
Anyway, how will I rate this Invasion! collection, huh? I GIVE IT:
‘DRO’ out of ‘DROKK!’
2. THE NEARER PAST
RED RAZORS by Mark Millar, Steve Yeowell and Nigel Dobbyn
Red Razors collects some stories from 2000AD and the Judge Dredd Megazine between 1991 and 2004 about a chump called ‘Judge Razors’, who is an ex-gang member in future Russia who has been forced to become a judge using Special Brain Surgery or something? He rides around on a talking horse and does some glib shooting and stabbing stuff, as he is edgy and a Mark Millar character.
In the grand tradition of early-90s 2000AD, there’s pop culture references all over the place, and a general attempt at a whole “we are hip and cool and like you!” atmosphere, which can lead to fucking ace comics.
This is not a fucking ace comic. As it’s Mark Millar, the pop culture stuff feels a bit off, and Razors is not a cool guy. He’s kind of an attempt at a zeitgeisty baggy guy (Judge Hingley, perhaps?) and I don’t buy that Mark Millar cared about that shit enough for it to not feel a bit cynical when he tries to appropriate it (though I did enjoy “Judge Nutmeg’s Your Man”).
Oh, there’s a bit of really bad writing that rankles hideously. Someone Razors (what an annoying name) is aiming a gun at says “you don’t have the guts to shoot me!” (or words to that effect), despite having already seen Razors kill a whole bunch of people. The line might have worked if he’d shown a previous unwillingness to kill, but it’s just a line/moment/scene that is unearned.
I like the art of most of the book, though, as it’s by Steve Yeowell (Sebastian O/Red Seas/Dull Kill Krew), who brings a touch of class to any story he illustrates, with his graceful, flimsy (in a good way!) linework and understanding of negative space. It’s not as appealing as his Zenith work, but then few things are. Oh, beautiful monochrome Zenith!
I just don’t like Mark Millar very much, especially ‘funny’ Mark Millar, as he is not funny. That said, one part did make laugh:
I could pure go some Elvis soup, so I could.
Maybe I should stop reading Mark Millar comics, as they are categorically not for me?
‘DR’ out of ‘DROKK!’
3. THE PRESENT
ZOMBO: CAN I EAT YOU, PLEASE? by Al Ewing and Henry Flint
Modern 2000AD! 2009-2010! A tale about a government-created zombie-thing who is for tackling the horros of government-created ‘deathworlds’! It is grotesque and genuinely funny and also ‘rip-roaring’ and the more Al Ewing I read, the more I think he is my current High Hope for comics.
I came to him from the imagination-filled ‘proper’ books ‘Pax Omega’ and ‘I, Zombie’, which managed to do interesting, unexpected things with the tired tropes of zombies, superheroes and steampunk. Seriously, ace wee books! ‘I, Zombie’ especially sits happily alongside ‘Death Arms’ by KW Jeter as my favourite Surprisingly Amazing books I’ve read in the last couple of years.
Look for them at your local book shop or library!
Zombo is totally 2000AD original pop sci-fi done correctly and Zombo himself is a GREAT character, with the cross between pleasant whimsy and violence reminding me a bit of Death’s Head, but there’s something more sinister and dangerous there that makes him feel a bit more than just comic relief (which was my worry when I began reading).
Plus, he has a bright red codpiece, which is totally a Cameo (of ‘word up’) reference, and that fills me with joy. What a good character design!
(sorry for the shitty scans, as usual)
I never really knew where this comic was going to go, which made me very happy, and the serialised nature of the comic works is put to good use with dense episodes with nice cliffhangers.
And the art, by co-creator Henry Flint, is like a combination of all 2000AD artists. There’s Ezquerra, Bond, Dillon, and Bisley in there, I reckon, but it’s more than the sum of its parts, for sure. It looks like Henry Flint, and that is exciting!
I’m not always super-keen on the colouring, but I can’t deny that it’s more intriguing than a lot of the colouring out there. There’s the odd nice moments of post-Varley computerised blocky abstraction in the backgrounds, and it’s ace to see people coming at computer colouring from an interesting angle, even if it’s not always to my taste.
Flint brings a horrible feeling of damp spaces and slurky biology to the comic. Some proper gruesome violence in it, too, which is both funny and horrific (often at the same time). Just really nice cartooning.
It’s got thrill-power, see.
Another important part of the appeal of Zombo is that it does the aforementioned ‘cultural referencing’ thing that 2000AD strips sometimes feature, but does it in a way that is witty and interesting and it doesn’t feel cynical.
The comic’s got some nice moments of Actual Emotion in it, but not quite enough for my taste. I think it could maybe ‘up’ those, to make it not just a laffs-n-violence adventure, but a story you’re invested in? That IS there, but I think maybe it could be there a bit more? Don’t get me wrong, it is by no means a ‘zany’ ‘random’ ‘lulzfest’ of the ‘sea vampires verus robot monkeys on the moon’ variety! Just that it is SO CLOSE to being my perfect sort of comic, SO CLOSE! I like emotional stuff, I do.
I think Granto’s still best for that kind of combination of Big Sci-Fi Ideas + Humour + Emotions, but Ewing is getting there. I WILL BE READING.
Still! There’s a good comment on stupid ‘romantic’ ‘nice guys’ that put women they barely know (but fancy) on pedestals in a way that is divorced from reality. Always welcome.
And there’s a good amount of bees in it. I really like bees.
And and I don’t want to give too much of it away.
And and and I want more Zombo! I know there’ve been some more strips in 2000AD since, and there’s some coming this year, and I can only pray to Tharg that a collection is forthcoming.
This comic is a joy to read, is £10.99 and totally worth every penny, and it helps that the cover is really great, too.
‘DROKK’ out of ‘DROKK!’
4.RIGHT NOW, IN MY FLAT, NOW
2000AD and the Megazine have their ups and downs, and produce a wide variety of strips of varying quality, and I am incredibly glad they exist! The collections also have similar trade dress and look great in a huge chunk on my shelves. Which isn’t that important, but ‘tevs, duder.
Splundig Vur Thrigg, or something?