Thursday, May 6, 2010

133. I'm in love with a Gibson girl

December 2003: Buried in the bubble between Tharg's mighty hands on the cover of this year's annual prog is the announcement that Robo-Hunter returns inside. That's exciting news, even greater than the cover's artwork by the great Duncan Fegredo. Robo-Hunter last appeared in 1995, with writer Peter Hogan and artist Rian Hughes at the helm. Theirs was a terrific series, whimsical, clever, pleasantly surprising at every turn, and only suffers by comparison to the original run by John Wagner, Alan Grant and Ian Gibson because those three created my all-time favorite comic series. And now, Grant and Gibson have reunited to resume this popular series, as though they'd never been away. Although Samuel C. Slade himself is mostly absent from the story. Holy Joe Smith, great god of robo-hunters, what has happened to your old pal?

"Like a Virgin," the four-part opener for this new run, takes place several years after Sam finally threw his two idiot assistants out and was forced to resume his old job in New York City after they spent all his money in the last original story, "Farewell, My Billions." This new outing begins with the hopelessly idiotic Hoagy coming across his old buddy Carlos Robo-Stogie while trying to track down Sam because he's found a new case for him, both just completely, and hilariously, lacking the insight to understand that Sam never wants to see them again.

Hoagy, using a DNA tracker, finds Sam's granddaughter, the bad-tempered Samantha Slade. It takes Hoagy and Stogie most of the next two episodes to comprehend that this isn't a remarkable new disguise, and that it really is a different person. She wouldn't mind tracking the old man down herself, as he stopped sending child support payments to her mother five years previously.

With typical Robo-Hunter ridiculousness, we soon learn that Sam finally met his match five years previously at the hands of the Cockney filmmaker Rich Guy and his wife, pop star Rodonna, who have been replacing movie stars with robots, and Sam's head has been stored in a cryo-tank and stuffed into a locker at a train station. The poor guy's even lost his body now; he just can't catch a break!

All right, so let's be brutally honest and objective, fans: Samantha Slade's tenure as robo-hunter is not the greatest series of the last decade, but it is nevertheless extremely fun and very silly and a winking breath of fresh air in the wake of the much heavier dramas around it. She takes the reins for six stories of varying lengths over a three-and-a-half year run, and only the second was mildly disappointing. Other than that tale, I love this series completely, and I remain optimistic, perhaps insanely so, that Tharg will be making a surprise announcement about its return before we come to the 2007 progs in this blog and I can avoid writing anything that I don't wish to say. But the events of the most recent adventure, "I, Jailbird," are a tale for another time, and I'll be certain to devote other entries to the tremendously fun and ridiculous third and fourth stories, so there's much more gleefully goofy times ahead.

Samantha's just a terrific character. Every so often, 2000 AD's fans make some noise about the comic being too led by male heroes and guns and testosterone and people wish for some more female leads. Samantha's just perfect for what we like to see: a tough protagonist who thinks on her feet and doesn't rely on sex or firepower to solve problems like, let's face it, plenty of other comic book heroines, but who still looks good and dresses well, especially with Ian Gibson to portray her. She's the perfect lead for a 2000 AD series: sassy, flawed, determined, slightly adrift in a bizarre, yet fully-formed universe, depicted with character and gusto in a well-written strip with constant surprise and wit. Bluntly, if you'd rather see Durham Red or anybody like her in 2000 AD over Samantha, you're as wrong as wrong can be.

Anyway, there's more to say about Prog 2004 besides the debut of Samantha. There's a letter from me, for example, a really great John Wagner episode of Judge Dredd with art by Jim Murray, another one of Gordon Rennie and Frazer Irving's silly one-offs, the first new Nikolai Dante episode in ten months (and last for twelve), and the first installments of new storylines for Slaine, The V.C.s and The Red Seas, which will accompany Dredd and Robo-Hunter into January 2004 as the regular lineup. It's perhaps not as amazing as some of the other year-end progs, but it's a great read all around.

Also, it's the first prog with the comic's present size. For the previous two years, it was presented in the same dimensions as an American comic, just a little larger. Now, it's in standard magazine size, an inch shorter and wider than it had been, just like the Meg has been for a little over a year. This is an extremely welcome development since, for the first time ever, both comics are printed in a size that fits in standard magazine bags with the flap closed. Any comic retailer worth its salt can take care of your storage needs for the last six-plus years of thrillpower.

Also this week, I needed to mention that over at my Bookshelf blog, you can catch my review of Defoe: 1666, the first collected edition of this Pat Mills-Leigh Gallagher series. It compiles the first two stories of this series, from 2007 and 2008. Check it out and tell your friends. Links are good. One day they might earn me a penny or two.

Next time, we catch up to the Megazine, where Chris Weston has contributed one of the comic's best covers ever. See you then!

1 comment:

David page said...

Oh yeah that cover is awesome....

Oh best thing about samantha slade?

The fact that it was revealed to be a sam slade robot who was in the mark millar run....

loved that reveal