Saturday, 10 April 2010

‘Button Man, Slaine & Rogue Trooper’ (Rebellion)

My experiences of 2000AD, when I was growing up, were more or less confined to reading it in the shop while the newsagent wasn’t looking. I read enough to know what I liked but never had the time to really get into it. Coming across the collections then has been a great way for me to fill in some of the gaps as well as finding new stories that I’ve really enjoyed.
The following post is an exercise in filling in those gaps, returning to an old favourite and discovering a new one; all at the same time…

‘Button Man: The Hitman’s Daughter’ – John Wagner/Frazer Irving

There’s something about 2000AD where you find that you know all about the stories inside it, even though you’ve never read them before. This was the case with ‘Button Man’, a modern day tale of shadowy combat between assassins backed (and wagered upon) by bored billionaires. There’s an awful lot of back story involved but, luckily for me, ‘The Hitman’s Daughter’ was a stand alone tale featuring a new character that made it very easy for me to just jump on board and get going. Adele Cotter’s saw her father killed when he tried to get out of the ‘Game’ for good; she’s twenty now and looking to get a little revenge for him. Things are never that clear-cut though soon Adele will come to realise just how deadly the ‘Game’ can be, especially when top ‘Button Man’ Harry Exton is at the centre of things…
For such a slim volume, Wagner manages to fit in an awful lot of double crossing and back stabbing. The story you find yourself reading at the end of the book is not the one you started with at the beginning; this all made for a gripping and compelling read as I found myself really invested in finding out just what the hell was going on. There’s no doubt that the reputation that Wagner has carved for himself, working on 2000AD, is well deserved.

Frazer Irving’s artwork isn’t particularly memorable to start off with but when the story really gets going so does he. Irving’s art really comes into it’s own when confrontation and combat is at the top of the agenda, really capturing how dirty and nasty it all is.

I’ve discovered another favourite story that I’m now going to have to go back and catch up on. Highly recommended for those who wonder just what could be hiding behind those familiar surroundings… 9.5/10

‘Slaine: Demon Killer’ – Pat Mills, Glenn Fabry, Glen Staples, Dermot Power

Slaine is a character whom I’ve been following for a while now, in one way or another. I’m a little behind with his adventures so ‘Demon Killer’ was a good way to catch up and get back into the swing of things.
Slaine is coming to the end of his tenure as King and is due to be ritually sacrificed to the Earth Goddess. The Goddess has other plans for Slaine though, sending him forward in time to aid the warrior queen Boudicca against the invading Roman Legions. The ensuing fight is far more than a clash of cultures however, the demon Elfric marches with the Legions and is looking forward to meeting Slaine once more…

One thing that I’ve always loved about Slaine is that he’s a little more thoughtful than your average barbarian warrior is and this comes across over the course of ‘Demon Killer’. Slaine isn’t averse to a spot of plundering and warfare in true Celtic style (as you see during the massacre in Colchester) but he displays a level of self awareness that makes him a character you can engage with rather than just watch. His sadness at the gulf of time between him and his old tribe is particularly poignant.

Digging up an old enemy for Slaine to fight makes you wonder if there was a lack of inspiration going on but Elfric’s wonderfully over the top character keeps things flowing nicely. He’s beautifully rendered on the page and his almost childlike joy in death and destruction casts him as the alien that he is.
Fabry, Staples and Power combine well over the course of the book to portray Slaine in a light reminiscent of Bisley’s work on ‘The Horned God’. Maybe this was a little too reminiscent for my liking but you can’t deny just how good it all looks on the page. ‘Demon Killer’ may be revisiting past glories, in an effort to come up with new ones, but it’s 100% Slaine in all the ways that matter the most. 9/10

‘Rogue Trooper: Tales of Nu Earth 01’ – Gerry Finley-Day, Alan Moore

If you’re wondering whether you’ve seen ‘Rogue Trooper’ mentioned here before then you’re bang on the money. I’ve covered ‘Rogue Trooper’ elsewhere in the past and I’m pretty much standing by what I said about those stories as far as this new collected edition goes. ‘Tales of Nu Earth 01’ is an exercise in filling in the gaps though as it contains ‘All Hell on the Dix-I Front’, ‘The Marauders’ and ‘Fort Neuro’; all stories that I missed out on while I was reading the series first time round. Alan Moore’s ‘Pray for War’ and ‘First of the Few’ are also in this volume and they proved to be real highlights for me.

One of my complaints about the ‘Rogue Trooper’ books that I read before was that their ‘episodic, face off against the villain of the week’ didn’t translate well to a collected format. This is still the case for those stories that have made it into this collection but ‘All Hell on the Dix-I Front’ and ‘Fort Neuro’ adopt a more long term ‘plot arc’ style that I found to make a refreshing change. ‘Fort Neuro’ does fall into the trap of recycling the same concept over each of the episodes (which is understandable but tedious) but ‘All Hell’ grows organically and is all the better for it. Dave Gibbons, Cam Kennedy and Brett Ewins’ artwork differs a little too much (in terms of providing a cohesive style for a single collection) but still does a fine job of portraying the tragedy and outright weirdness of warfare in the far future.

‘Tales of Nu Earth 01’ isn’t without it’s issues but proved to be a great way for me to fill in the gaps that I’d missed before. I’d definitely pick up Volume 2, when it’s released, to see what else I’ve missed… 8.25/10

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