Thursday, October 11, 2007

25. Chin to Chin

It's October 1995, and, if you can figure out what that big orangey-brown thing on the cover is, it's time for a truly odd little four-part story in which Pat Mills, Tony Skinner and Jason Brashill look into what the heck Hammerstein was doing in the Judge Dredd movie. The real answer is that artist Kevin Walker, around the time he was painting the "Khronicles of Khaos" storyline for The ABC Warriors, was contracted to do some design work for the Dredd film. Since the script called for a old war robot to do the baddie's bidding, he just reused the Hammerstein design. Brashill paints Hammerstein with an enormous helmet; I think this cover would work a lot better if he wasn't wearing it; then you'd have Dredd chin-to-chin with Hammerstein's angular, robotic jaw, and not that big ugly expanse of curved muddy orange.

The fictional answer is that Mills figured it would be a good idea to have the crazy robot tank from the later parts of "The Cursed Earth" be one of the ABC Warriors' commanders, and that at some point that does not really make a lot of sense, General Blood n' Guts led a battalion of Hammersteins against the judges during the big civil war in the late 21st century that led to the creation of the Mega-Cities. Well, of course.

One thing I like about 2000 AD is that it usually does not go out of its way to reconcile odd backstories or tie together threads into one continuity. It remains a favorite hobby of some fans, but, mercifully, understanding how one series may be set in the same universe as another is never required to figure out what the heck is going on in the comic. Also, this is the first time that the character of Hammerstein is described as being one of many; previously, in Ro-Busters and the original ABC Warriors storyline, it was implied that most war droids were these sort of anonymous C-3PO-looking guys. The concept of a battalion full of Hammerstein droids has resurfaced in the current "Volgan War" story by Mills and Clint Langley.

Mills would later start playing with different versions of the same storyline. The ABC Warriors and Ro-Busters are set in an outlandish, sci-fi world where the Volgan invasion of Britain led to the immediate development of armies of robots. Savage, which picks up the themes from the original Invasion! storyline, is set in the modern world, in a present we'd find ourselves in had England really been invaded in 1999. So it doesn't stretch things too much to have another version where ABC War vets were fighting the judges after the Volgans surrendered. (If you don't know what a Volgan is, recall that the longest river in Europe is the Volga, and that the comic's publishers didn't wish to offend anybody at the Russian Embassy, even if the comic's writers, in 1977, didn't mind who they offended.)

Also running in this prog is a really great, terrific Dredd story by Wagner and John Burns called "The Cal Files." This introduces another recurring nemesis for Dredd in the form of Judge Edgar, the power-hungry head of Justice Department's Public Surveillance Unit. Edgar's quiet manipulation of politics makes her a fascinating moral and ethical opponent for Dredd. Also appearing in the issue are the continuing stories of Luke Kirby (Alan McKenzie & Simon Parkhouse), Maniac 5 (Mark Millar & Steve Yeowell) and Slaine (Mills & Langley), along with the first episode of "Deals," a new Durham Red four-parter by Peter Hogan and Mark Harrison. Unfortunately, the story starts off with one of the most bizarre printing errors ever seen in the comic:

Well, they got the lettering right, anyway...

(Originally published 10/11/07 on LiveJournal.)

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