Monday, 1 June 2009

‘The Complete Ace Trucking Co. Vol. 2’ – Wagner, Grant, Bellardinelli (Rebellion Books)

Considering how much I’m into sci-fi it’s surprising that I made through almost all of the eighties and nineties without picking up a copy of 2000AD. What happened there? I don’t know, I guess I was just more into books at the time... I did get the very occasional comic and it was stories such as ‘Nemesis the Warlock’ and ‘Chopper’ that stayed in my mind and indirectly led to me picking up comic books again just recently.

I vaguely remembered the ‘Ace Trucking Co.’ (from 2000AD) stories but never followed them at the time. I’d heard good things about the series though so decided to give it another go. In my own inimitable way I went for the second volume of the collected series (instead of the first) but found out that reading the second volume first doesn’t leave you with any gaps in the over all plot that cannot be filled. Read away with impunity as far as that goes! I also realised just how good this series is and might just have to find myself a copy of volume one...

In a galaxy rendered deliciously strange by Massimo Bellardinelli’s gorgeous artwork (I’m already a fan from his work on ‘Slaine’ and he is just as good, of not better, here) the trucking hero of the spaceways is pointy headed alien entrepreneur Ace Garp. Along with his crew, bodyguard GBH and the skeletal ship’s engineer Feek the Freek, Ace flies the ‘Speedo Ghost’ (by the way, don’t ever do a google image search for this unless you’re after multiple pictures of men in swimming trunks...) from one assignment to another trying to make his fortune. The trouble here is that Ace’s plans never include a way to get him and his crew out of all the trouble he finds himself in...

Once I got past the futuristic trucker slang Ace insists on using I had a blast with this collection. I found out that Wagner and Grant got tired of Ace Trucking Co. and kept trying to end it only to find the series was in such great demand that they had to continue. All credit to them then that, despite this, Vol. 2 flows very smoothly (apart from the episode where Ace finds himself in the 2000AD office in the ‘Dead Characters File’, I guess you had to be there at the time to get that...), maintaining a fast and furious pace throughout. The overall plot goes very much along the lines of ‘Ace gets the crew into trouble, Ace and the crew have to get out of trouble’ but any repetitive tendencies are more than cancelled out by the sheer exuberance that drives things forward and the creator’s imagination evident in both the plot and the galaxy that it’s set in.

Bellardinelli makes full use of each and every panel, almost to the point where it’s crowded and there is too much to see. The overall effect though is totally alien and surreal which really fits the bill. Wagner and Grant are on song, over the course of this collection, with a storyline that isn’t afraid to poke fun at itself (the Keystone Cops moment in ‘The Garpetbaggers’ is perhaps my favourite example of this) and ends up being great fun as a result. It’s not just a funny read though as it’s full of enough swordfights (‘Evil Blood’ is a great name for a pirate!) and star ship races/fights to make for a really gripping read. There were points where I couldn’t put the book down until I found out what had happened next.

I’m really glad I finally got round to checking out ‘Ace Trucking Co.’ I had a great time with it and, like I said, I’ll be keeping an eye open for Volume 1. Fans will love it all over again, I wouldn’t be surprised at all if these collected editions make a few new fans as well.

Nine out of Ten


Karen Mahoney said...

Breaker, breaker! Wow... I am such a geek.

I can't believe you haven't read this before, either. ;) I loved 2000AD back in the day. Ah, happy memories.

You should try reading Rogue Trooper. That was one of my favourites. And for more laughs, 'Sam Slade, Robo-Hunter'

Graeme Flory said...

There is a lot of stuff I haven't read before... (to my shame, *sigh*...)

I vaguely remember 'Sam Slade', I might just have to try and get myself a copy of this as well... :o)