Thursday, August 16, 2012

178. General Public!

August 2007: On the cover this month is Blackblood, the treacherous and nasty ABC Warrior programmed for backstabbing, double-crossing, and evildoing. When the character was first introduced in 1979, the shtick was that he was one of the no-good evil Volgans with whom our heroic Warriors were battling, and he was shut down, abducted, and reprogrammed to fight for the allies. So as the memoir-based epic "The Volgan Wars," written by Pat Mills and drawn by Clint Langley, returns, it's natural that when Blackblood gets a chance to share one of his old war stories, it's from the other side, and a story about sending brave young hammersteins to the smelter, where they could be turned into AK-47s to help the war effort.

Back in May, I was telling you about the first chunk of this 288-page epic, and I'll refer anybody curious about its four-chunk format there to learn more. This phase of the story sees Blackblood and Deadlock telling their tales, while, in Broadband Asylum, the Volgan warlord robot Volkhan has come back to life and convinced Mek-Quake to join his new army. The segments with Blackblood are the most entertaining, thanks to a fantastic running gag that goes on for weeks and never gets old. Not programmed to understand the idioms of decadent Western speech, Blackblood thinks that the phrase "the general public" refers to a top-secret Allied commander. Torture, murder, war crimes, they all mean nothing to Blackblood, who is bound and determined to ferret out the elusive General Public.

The lineup for this summer's run of stories is a really good one, with Judge Dredd in a number of short adventures and one-offs by a variety of creators, culminating in the sequel to "Mandroid" by John Wagner and Carl Critchlow, The ABC Warriors, Stone Island for its second and final story by Ian Edginton and Simon Davis, Button Man by John Wagner and Frazer Irving, and, in its epic conclusion, Caballistics Inc. by Gordon Rennie and Dom Reardon. Except we didn't know at the time that this was going to be its conclusion.

I do enjoy Caballistics, but in its most recent appearances, the individual adventures got lost in subplots. The previous "story" was called "Changelings" and ran from progs 1469-1474 and the actual storyline that dealt with changelings was about a quarter of the narrative. I think that Rennie recognized that he was juggling lots of characters and lots of continuing plots, and needed to resolve things before moving forward. Then he decided not to move forward any longer.

At 40 pages, "Ashes" is the longest Cabs story, and it sees the team dealing with the old threat of one-time Department Q member Mr. Magister, a sociopath with incredible psychic powers, and then using Magister as an unwitting ally against their benefactor Ethan Kostabi, who's been revealed to have a much darker agenda for the team than they realized.

The conclusion leaves any future stories in doubt. Dr. Jonathan Strange had been killed in the previous story, and Ness meets his end this time. Chapter and Verse are summarily dismissed and referred to as being very grievously wounded, but, bizarrely, not shown on-panel in the end. It's left unclear as to whether Kostabi was telling the truth about Verse's maiming, or whether Hannah Chapter would ever walk again, and for such a popular character to have her fate handwaved is really, really odd. It's an apocalyptic and wild conclusion, and huge fun, but Chapter and Verse deserved a little better than that.

About two months after this story ended in October, one final-to-date Cabs episode appeared in Prog 2008. It set up some new plot threads, looked in on a supporting player, and did not mention Chapter and Verse. This leaves the story in a very, very weird place as far as fans' ability to sit down and read the darn thing goes. Earlier in 2007, the second collected edition, entitled Creepshow, was released, reprinting about the second half of the series, through 2006's "Changelings." But then there are only two stories, just 50 pages, left, leaving this epic climax unreprinted. I imagine that Tharg and Gordon Rennie have at least talked about doing some more stories, and they know more than they're telling. If there is more Cabs in the pipeline, then they should get to work on the damn thing, and if not, then "Ashes" and "The Nativity" should be collected in one of those freebie floppy "graphic novels" bagged with the Megazine, and then the whole series should be re-collected in a single, large edition that will replace the existing two. They should get on that as soon as possible.

Meanwhile, for those of us who enjoyed Cabs for its weird, dark, occult stories, in 2011, Rennie took the supporting character of DI Harry Absolam and spun him off into a series of his own, kind of. Apparently set in an alternate reality where there might not have ever been a Cabs team, and where vowels don't appear in the same order, Absalom debuted in prog 1732 and there have been three stories so far. Drawn magnificently by Tiernen Trevallion, it features an aging, alcoholic London copper and his team of police spookbusters, and is so darn popular on its own that people might resent space being given over to more Cabs when we could have Harry double-dealing, drinking and demonizing instead.

Stories from this issue have been reprinted in the following collected editions:
The ABC Warriors: The Volgan War Vol. 2 (2000 AD's Online Shop)
Button Man: The Hitman's Daughter (Volume Four, from 2000 AD's Online Shop)
Stone Island: The Complete Stone Island (2000 AD's Online Shop)

Next time, speaking of the general public, we'll see what they have to say about nudity in comics when Stone Island finds a way to push everybody's buttons. See you in seven days!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Absalom seems to be in continuity with Cabs - in one of the stories, Harry walks past Ravne and "Jenny" pushing a pram. (Don't taunt us like that, Gordon! :()

- Charles RB