Thursday, December 11, 2008

78. Back to Termight

Thrillpowered Thursday is a weekly look at the world of 2000 AD. I'm rereading my collection of 2000 AD and the Judge Dredd Megazine, one issue an evening, and once each week for the foreseeable future, I'll see what I'm inspired to write.

On to October 1999 and prog 1165. Well, there he is, back on the cover, promoted for weeks and with all sorts of ass-kicking promise, it's the freaky, pointy-headed, devilish alien freedom fighter Nemesis the Warlock, back to wage war on the tyrannical despots of totalitarian future Earth. It's a long overdue final series for Nemesis, who was last seen five years previously in a truncated three-part adventure. This had possibly been intended as the first part of a much longer storyline (and was discussed in these pages eighteen months ago, see Nemesis Arrives and Departs) but nothing more came of it. Now, with Henry Flint on art duties, Pat Mills is ready to really put him to the test for nine weeks of crazy perspective shots and nightmarish aliens and ugly steel masks and millions of aircars and spaceships running upside down through white holes and black holes. Nem himself doesn't turn up until the second week of the mayhem. This time out, we've got the human terrorist Purity Brown and her big green friend - the fellow with the mouth on his hand from the classic "Alien Pit" sequence - leading a raid in the Terror Tubes and finding, perhaps a little predictably, that the whole thing's a big trap engineered by their arch-enemy to get the plot moving.

Nemesis isn't the only eighties weirdie making a comeback this week. In Judge Dredd, we learn that during the recent Doomsday Scenario, a bunch of prisoners went missing from an iso-cube, among them the nasty alien bounty hunter Trapper Hag. He'd been seen just once before, in a three-part storyline from 1983, illustrated by Steve Dillon. Now, like "rogue's gallery" villains are meant to do, Hag goes looking for revenge instead of getting out of town like any sensible bad guy. In this two-parter illustrated by Siku, Hag gets the better of Dredd, plans to kill him, gloats too much and gets hoist on his own petard again. Following the intricate, twists-and-turns, multiple perspective plotting of "The Doomsday Scenario," this is a little bit by-the-numbers and, frankly, unnecessary.

At any rate, the rest of the current lineup is the same as it was during the last installment: Downlode Tales by Dan Abnett and Simon Davis, Nikolai Dante in "The Courtship of Jena Makarov" by Robbie Morrison and Simon Fraser, and more of Devlin Waugh by John Smith and Steve Yeowell. Of these, Nemesis, Dante and Devlin are all available in collected editions from Rebellion.

In other news, Rebellion recently released the fifth in a series of slim ABC Warriors collections, this one reprinting the 15-part "Return to Mars" serials under the title The Third Element. We haven't made it to this point in the Thrillpowered Thursday reread, and so I'll save the really juicy-but-sad behind-the-scenes drama that fueled this unhappy storyline until then, and just focus on the book itself.

To be honest, the previous two ABC Warriors books were a little underwhelming for one reason or another, and this one really gives off a glow of failed promise and expectations. When it works, it works incredibly well: the return of Mike McMahon to these characters after twenty-odd years and heaven-only-knows how many style changes is an absolutely fascinating curiosity, and Henry Flint, currently illustrating a Haunted Tank miniseries for Vertigo, turns in some terrific artwork. But Boo Cook's first pro job is frankly a mess, miles removed from what he'd later prove capable of creating, and Liam Sharp apparently abandoned all of his professional tools in favor of two Sharpies and a Bic ballpoint.

Pat Mills' script is almost enough to hold it together, because he's once again running with lunatic ideas and throwing lots of them at the wall in furious sequence. But everything that does catch your imagination here is abandoned too quickly, and each three-episode storyline would have greatly benefitted from an extra week to breathe. On the other hand, three episodes for each piece is somewhat appropriate for a story about three-legged tripod critters on Mars, I suppose.

Next week, a look at the finale to Downlode Tales as we begin closing out the 1990s.

(Originally posted December 11, 2008 at hipsterdad's LiveJournal.)

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