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Heavy Metal Heroes!,
This review is from: A.B.C. Warriors The Mek Files 01 (Hardcover)
A chunky, over-sized hardback reprint of the ABC Warriors' first two series, The Meknificent Seven and The Black Hole.
Published in the perennial anthology comic 2000AD, Pat Mills' stories of the Warriors has proven to be one of his most enduringly popular. Seven bickering robots with distinct personalities and terrific designs blow a succession of baddies to pieces, then fight among themselves until some more enemies turn up. It's not hard to see the appeal - it helps that they've been blessed over the years with some of British comics' best artistic talent, and this is a collection that shows that off to superb advantage. It's a big book, with lovely paper stock, and the design of the inner covers, endpapers and story intros is brilliantly done. The book is mainly in (gorgeous) black-and-white, but this is the first time since the original comics that the centre-spreads of the first series have been reprinted in their original full colour. The back of the book is stuffed full of colour covers, pin-ups and the like.
The Meknificent Seven sees the team assembled one by one - a storytelling motif that allows each character to make a distinct impression - before jetting off to tame the Devil Planet, Mars, in a 'let's-clean-up-this-here-frontier' narrative that wears its Western influence proudly on its sleeve. If a little childish at times, it's a breathless thrill-a-minute rollercoaster ride that never lets up. Robot cows, sentient liquid-metal men, Martian tyrannosaurs - in classic Pat Mills tradition, he throws everything into the mix to see what works. The Black Hole takes place hundreds of years later. A somewhat different team - Happy Shrapnel and The Mess replaced by Ro-Jaws and Mek-Quake (both from the earlier Ro-Busters series http://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/1781082626?keywords=ro-busters&qid=1454512601&ref_=sr_1_1&sr=8-1) - is on a quest through the bowels of an Earth whose society has moved completely underground, trying to halt the imminent destruction of the planet - but fractures and tensions within the team prove an even greater obstacle than the enemies trying to stop them. It's more thoughtful, more sombre stuff, that delves deep into the Warriors' origins and phsyces and asks a bucketload of interesting questions about what it means to be a robot, designed to imitate humans in every way but never allowed to be equals. This is best summed up in the character of Terri, the new ABC Warrior - a human who has been brought up to think of herself as a robot, and her romance with team leader Hammerstein. It may only be their second ever solo adventure, but it's arguably the best story the Warriors ever got - dark, literate, intelligent, challenging, but also very, very funny.
The only caveat is that the two series collected here aren't terribly well matched. By the time the The Black Hole was published, ten years had passed since the Warrior's first series. The original audience of 7-year old boys were now 17-year olds, with vastly different interests and preoccupations and the much darker, more mature tone of the second series reflects this - and the contrast forced on the two through sharing a cover makes the Meknificent Seven seem terribly juvenile. As well as being seperated by a decade, the series had been 'interupted', so to speak, by Pat Mills' other great series Nemesis the Warlock. The Warrior's years in that other strip had seen some big changes to the team, and as a result the events in this book can often seem like only half the story.
None of that is really anyone's fault, of course, but you will need to track down Nemesis the Warlock as well to fully appreciate what's going on (here's hoping it gets the same treatment some day). That aside it's a cracker of a collection, superbly presented - probably the definitive reprint of these stories, which is saying something considering how many there've been over the years. Roll on Book 2!