Thursday, January 8, 2009

82. Preacher Cain Wants Books

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.

February 2000: I love the fantastic cover by Jason Brashill on prog 1181. Okay, so maybe he doesn't get Cain completely right - he appears a little jowly to me - but that's a fantastic composition, and when Gordon Rennie's Missionary Man gets its long overdue collection, as surely it must, this needs to be the cover of Book Two. The current storyline is called "The Promised Land" and it is a proper, old-school Dreddworld epic which runs for about four months and features Cain hooking up with a Helltrek in the Cursed Earth. In a small departure from the many stories set in the atomic desert that was once middle America, there are several overlapping subplots that propel the adventure beyond the patchy, episodic style of the many "Cursed Earth quest" tales that John Wagner had already penned before this one. Principally, there's the problem of the Helltrek making new enemies everywhere they go, and these menaces carrying on in pursuit of the settlers from story to story. The artists on "The Promised Land" include Trevor Hairsine, Colin MacNeil, Dean Ormston and Alex Ronald, who puts in his best work to date with some eerie quasi-suburban landscapes in the early episodes, set in an isolated community populated by gun-toting maniacs who think they're the rightful government of the long-destroyed United States.

It's been a little more than a year since I last discussed Missionary Man in my Reprint This! feature (now available on its separate Blogspot site, with Missionary Man written up here for everyone to see), and I have to say that I really think doing a proper reprint of this series should be on Tharg's to-do list for 2009. The first book needs to contain the following stories, which appeared between 1993 and 1997:

"Salvation at the Last Chance Saloon," "A Town Called Intolerance," "Legend of the Unholy Drinker," "Bad Moon Rising," "Season of the Witch," "Sanctuary," "The Undertaker Cometh," "Treasure of the Sierra Murder," "Medicine Show," "Night Riders," "Mississippi Burning," "Crusader," "The Big Sleazy," "Night of the Hunter," "Mortal Combat" and "Juggernaut," which would be a fine place to wrap up. That should come to about 235 pages.

Book two then needs to contain the rest of the series, which originally appeared between 1997 and 2002, and features all of Missionary Man's time in 2000 AD before the series moved back to the Meg for its final two stories. These are:

"The Shootist," "Storm Warnings," "Prologue," "Mardi Gras," "Goin' South," "Apocrypha," "The Promised Land," "Mark of the Beast," "Silence" and "Place of the Dead." These would come to about 197 pages and make for two simply excellent books. I hope Tharg gets to work on these this year!

The rest of the prog is also very entertaining. It features the second part of a Judge Dredd story called "Pumpkin Eater" by Alan Grant and Siku, in which Dredd matches wits with a serial killing couch potato, Sinister Dexter in a one-off by Dan Abnett and Paul Johnson, Glimmer Rats by Rennie and Mark Harrison and Badlands, a short serial by Abnett and Kevin Walker. If I understand correctly, this story of 1870s gunmen who have fallen through a crack in time into the Mesozoic Era had originally appeared in an anthology comic from Tundra in 1994, but appeared in 2000 AD in a slightly revised and expanded edition across five issues. Kevin Walker hadn't painted in this style for some time - it is reminiscent of his work on the ABC Warriors adventures "Khronicles of Khaos" and "Hellbringer" - but while it's visibly a throwback artistically, it's still a great-looking story, even if it ends up being a little slight.

In other news, Rebellion's ongoing series of Judge Dredd Complete Case Files, now with slightly modified trade dress, including a gold badge in place of the U on the spine, and color on the front cover, has reached the eleventh edition, reprinting 50 episodes from the heady days of 1987-88. Writers John Wagner and Alan Grant began winding down their regular collaboration and embarked on one final hurrah together: the 26-part epic "Oz," in which the recurring recalcitrant menace Chopper escapes Mega-City One custody and flies to the Sydney-Melbourne Conurb on his flying surfboard to take place in Supersurf 10. Judge Dredd is in hot pursuit, but it turns out that the "escape" was engineered to give Dredd a big, public reason to be stomping around a foreign Mega-City; there's a lost "tribe" of bizarre cloned judges with outlandish technology operating from the nearby radback...

Outside of "Oz," there's plenty to enjoy in this book. You get the first appearance of eleven year-old psycho killer PJ Maybe, a second scrap with a recurring villain called Stan Lee - the world's greatest martial artist! - and so much great artwork by the likes of Steve Dillon, Brett Ewins, Brendan McCarthy and Cliff Robinson. But "Oz" is definitely the selling point here. The volume, sadly, does not correct a pair of misprinted pages (the first two pages of episode three were printed in the wrong order in 1987 and no reprint has ever corrected the error), but the story is downright amazing, a wonderful, loopy adventure with several twists and unexpected detours. It's so much more than the standard devastation of the city by Sovs/robots/terrorists/Judge Death that you often see in the big, six-month Dredd epics, and the final six episodes, in which Chopper races in the insane skysurfing match, will leave you breathless. Reading that story one chunk a week was agonizing in the spring of 1988! Highly recommended.

Next week, Banzai Batallion! The little pest control droids return to duty in a new adventure.

(Originally posted 1/8/09 at hipsterdad's LiveJournal.)

No comments: