Thursday, February 21, 2008

42. Mercy Killings

December 1996: Prog 1022 is bringing the autumn-launched series to their conclusions, and many of them will not be seen again. Time Flies, Mambo and Rogue Trooper are all on the chopping block, and the next issue will see the final appearance of Robo-Hunter for seven years, as a one-off episode by Peter Hogan and Rian Hughes, submitted for the never-released 1996 Annual, is dusted down and shown off. It's not all "goodbye to old rubbish," thankfully. (And the Hogan/Hughes Robo-Hunter is absolutely wonderful, anyway!) The new thrill Mazeworld is wrapping up its first series, and John Smith and Paul Marshall's Judge Dredd twelve-parter "Darkside" continues, bridging this bunch of thrills and the next launch prog.

Rogue Trooper is finally being closed down after years of adventures which occasionally ranked as "pretty good." The character and continuity were revamped by Dave Gibbons and Will Simpson in 1990, but despite many efforts from many creators, it just never caught fire. There were periodic instances of great artwork and one amazing sequence in the summer of 1995 which saw almost the entire supporting cast killed off, but, as I wrote in the 27th entry, Rogue Trooper as a whole is simply not as thrill-powered as it should be.

The last several episodes have been co-written by Steve White and Dan Abnett and revealed that the armies of religious nutballs that Friday has been warring against are actually being manipulated by ugly aliens. So Venus Bluegenes finds out what's going on, rescues Friday, and they're out into the wild blue yonder in a stolen spaceship and are last seen plunging into a black hole. How in creation something as high-concept as this could appear boring, I couldn't tell you, but it's a dull climax and the cliffhanger remains unresolved. Of all the "whatever happened to" cliffhangers in 2000 AD's history, this one must surely rank among the least engaging. Nobody cares what becomes of Friday and Venus, and we never learn.

But there is more business with genetic infantrymen to come in the very near future...

At any rate, it's also farewell time for the much-maligned Time Flies, which everybody involved agrees is not as good as it should've been. I concede I'm pretty far in the minority, but even if Garth Ennis's script appears to be phoned in, there are still some good gags scattered throughout the nine episodes, along with some very nice art by Philip Bond and Roger Langridge. (I wonder whether the story was edited down from 12 episodes to nine. It would certainly fit with the tendency during this period for the editor to do quite a lot of rewriting and pruning to get some of this unwanted, older material burned through as fast as possible.)

Of the material from this period, "Darkside" and Time Flies have each been reprinted, in issues 10 and 19 of 2000 AD Extreme Edition. If you've never seen this title, you should certainly check it out. It's released every other month and reprints around 100 pages in an oversized format for $5.99, which is an amazing value. You can order back issues from the 2000 AD website.

Next week, there are new thrills, the last of Mark Millar's indestructible men, and a Slaine story that's better than I remembered it. See you in seven!

(Originally published 2/21/08 at LiveJournal.)

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