Monday, January 21, 2008

Random Prog Review: 1992 Sci-Fi Special

Sci-Fi Specials and Annuals can be real hit and miss affairs. This is one of those 'let's mix up the creative teams on a story and see what happens...' jobs. It's pretty good overall, although there's nothing essential in it. I guess that's the other problem with specials - Tharg wouldn't want to run any really major stories in it 'cos that wouldn't be fair on those who only buy the regular Prog.

Here's the line-up of mis-matched Droids:

Peter Hogan and John Ridgway on Strontium Dog
John Tomlinson and Greg Staples on Brigand Doom
Mark Millar and Brett (ok so he's done it before) Ewins on Rogue Trooper
Alan McKenzie and Sean Phillips on Armoured Gideon
John Smith and Chris Weston on RoboHunter

There's also a Judge Dredd reprint (the interactive booby-trapped block game show story) which is inevitably the strongest strip in the Special, and a surprisingly good interview with John Lydon, which may or may not be a leftover from Revolver. Oh, and a John Smith text story. I've yet to bring myself to read a full text story. Its odd, I love reading books and short stories, but somehow if it's printed in a comic, I don't want to know. Articles and interviews, fine, but short stories, no no no.

Some opinions:
Hogan of course would go on to lead the Strontium Dogs into an epic saga in years to come, but this was probably his first effort. It involves Aplhpa and Wulf in person, and introduces the planet Hirfu and the blind old crone 'Walking Lady'. I suppose if Tharg ever deigns to collect this series, it's have to include this tale. Gotta say, Hogan is an extremely able comics writer, but sometimes he isn't half bland. Or maybe I just hate cliched mentor figures in the 'heroes journey' tradition, the Walking Lady being my least liked of all.

Tomlinson does the best job in the mag of getting into a character that's not his own. He has Investigator 9 exploring her rather scary childhood and trying to understand her connection to Brigand Doom. Staples's Doom is ok, too.
Sean Phillips, on the other hand, just can't draw (let alone paint) Armoured Gideon. I've never been a massive fan of his painted stuff anyway, to be honest - I much prefer his current work on the likes of Marvel Zombies - but he's obviously a great artist. Simon Jacob, however, had something unique going on, and it's very clear that all Phillips can do is try to reproduce, not to put his own stamp on the character.

McKenzie has a decent stab at mixing up the demonology and cheap comedy that is typical of Gideon, although his lampooning of the film industry is not original in any way.

Mark Millar's Rogue Trooper is, as you might expect, ultra-violent and nasty. He's kind of like the anti-Hogan - also extremely able as a comics writer (of all the criticisms that Millar draws, it's never that his panel-to-panel storytelling doesn't make sense. This to my mind is one of the key differences between professional and all too many small-press efforts), only where Hogan is sometimes bland, sometimes arch and occasionally subtle, Millar is over-the-top, raucous and never, ever subtle. His Rogue seems to be inspired not by the Finley-Day approach, but rather by the Smith approach as seen in Cinnabar, probably run in the Prog not that long before this tale was commissioned. Our hero is trapped in a compound run by alien torture specialist. The lead torturer is a sadistic dandy in the classic John Smith tradition. Rogue inevitably escapes, but leaves behind a message of despair as his fellow inmates wonder if he will ever return to rescue them. Ewins is channeling his Bad Company look rather than his old Rogue Trooper look (or maybe that's just because it's in colour?). It works for the story, and makes it feel as if he's an 'out of place' artist like the rest of the Special.

As if to return the favour, John Smith's RoboHunter is in the Millar mould - nasty, violent, garish and utterly devoid of the charm and humour of the Grover/Gibson era. Still, it's not terrible. But really it's just a long sequence of Slade in the sewers blasting at a bunch of evil robots and occasionally getting covered in human flesh. Only so much fun you can have with that, even if it is drawn by Chris Weston.

Weston also got to draw the pictures to go with Smith's text story. Pictures that while intriguing, were not enough to make me overcome my 'must not read text story' prejudices. This picture in particular:
also alerted me to the idea that Weston was (and perhaps still is) trying to capture the twisted spirit and expertly clean draughtsmanship of Brian Bolland. I think he exceeds on the former, but falls short on the latter. Which means his covers aren't as good as Bolland's, but his strips are usually better - not to mention far more frequent!

Anyway, the 2000 AD 1992 Sci-Fi special - you can take it or leave it.


Post a Comment

<< Home