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Home ¦ Reviews ¦ ABC Warriors - The Meknificent Seven

2000AD Review Extra 23rd May 05

2000 AD - ABC Warriors - The Meknificent Seven
ABC Warriors - The Meknificent Seven
by Pat Mills, Kevin O'Neill, Brendan McCarthy, Mike McMahon, Brett Ewins, Dave Gibbons, Carlos Ezquerra

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What to Expect:

Classic 2000AD thrills, as a band of robots battle across Earth & Mars?

Review by Richard Pearce

The Warriors weren't my first encounter with the Galaxy's Greatest, but they were one of the most memorable and they've remained firm favourites ever since. So, how does this collection treat their earliest adventures - and how do those adventures stand up today?

The Rebellion/DC reprint lacks the specially commissioned framing pages included in the Titan editions that ease the reader into the story. Instead, you're placed in the same position as readers the first time around and thrown into the midst of the ABC - Atomic Biological Chemical - War, the latest and most deadly in a series of future conflicts. Warfare has finally become "too tough for humans" and now robots fought their wars for them, controlled from afar by human officers.

2000 AD - ABC Warriors - The Meknificent Seven

The first character we meet is one of these robots, Sergeant Hammerstein, a battle droid who serves as the narrator for the early stories and who was familiar to the audience of the time from another 2000AD strip, Ro-Busters. Hammerstein is ordered by the mysterious Colonel Lash to recruit a team of elite robots for a secret mission. The first to join him are his companions, Happy Shrapnel and Joe Pineapples, and over the next five stories, Hammerstein draws the rest of his team together by besting them in battle. We meet Mongrol, destroyed and rebuilt from the remains of fallen robots; Deadlock, sinister acolyte of the Order of Knights Martial; the brutal General Blackblood; and Steelhorn, the most handsome robot ever built. These characters do sometimes verge on the stereotypical - and possibly could have been in other hands - but Mills' writing and the striking character designs keep them fresh and interesting.

The opening tales are a perfect example of the dense, action-packed style that characterised many early 2000AD strips. Pat Mills casts ideas around with abandon, bringing them up only to have them disappear a few panels later. Although the format of the comic has remained largely unchanged, this is an approach that has disappeared from modern 2000AD in favour of far more slower-paced tales.

This first part of the book is a thoroughly satisfying read, taking its cues from movies like The Magnificent Seven (a film that would have been familiar to readers in 1979 from regular screenings on TV) and the loosely connected tales give Pat Mills the space to introduce and develop each of the Warriors, while still building the main story in the background.

2000 AD - ABC Warriors - The Meknificent Seven
However, if the story is satisfying, the art is perhaps less so. Four artists, each with very different styles, worked on these early tales, and the frequent changes in style can be jarring. That said, it does give readers a chance to appreciate the early work of future stars like Brett Ewins and Brendan McCarthy, as well as some very assured art from both Kevin O'Neill and Mike McMahon.

Once the team is assembled, the action moves to a future Mars, where mechanoid whales swim the Martian deserts, biker gangs roam towering cities and tamed dinosaurs hunt men for the bloody entertainment of the Martian Úlite. Mills' imagination runs riot here, but the stories remain anchored by some very human concerns. There's a tribe of alien apes persecuted by the human colonists in a story that echoes the plight of American Indians, and a giant robot, ostracised by the Martian settlers because of his "disability". It's this knack for mixing the everyday and the human with the outlandish that was hugely appealing to a young audience, and keeps these stories fresh today, even if they are perhaps less sophisticated than readers now expect.

The art in the Martian adventures is largely the work of Mike McMahon, with a pair of guest stints from Dave Gibbons and Carlos Ezquerra. Of the two, Ezquerra seems least comfortable on the strip and his art here certainly doesn't bear comparison with the work he was doing on Strontium Dog at the time.

2000 AD - ABC Warriors - The Meknificent Seven
This volume draws to a conclusion slightly unsatisfactorily, with a story that hints at future Martian adventures for the Warriors. However, they wouldn't reappear in 2000AD for another five years and then only as guests in another Mills strip, Nemesis the Warlock. It wouldn't be until 1988 and "The Black Hole" (out now in the Rebellion/DC book of the same name) that they would have another solo adventure.

Presentation is generally very good, with very little to choose from between this and the previous Titan edition. The black & white art is reproduced nicely, but the colour double-spreads that opened earlier episodes are reprinted in greyscale and suffer both from this and the reduction in size. Kevin Walker's front and rear cover illustrations are attractive, appropriate and well reproduced, and may be of particular interest to fans of his art for being from two very distinct periods of his work. There are some problems with the occasional iffy page, and gutters being slightly too small, making the frequent double-page spreads hard to read, but this is certainly one of the better Rebellion/DC books so far.

Mills has revisited Mars in his more recent Warriors stories, and while they crackle with ideas, they lack the focus and emphasis on simple storytelling of these earlier tales. The stories in this book may often be basic, and are frequently melodramatic, but they're exciting, subversive and inventive - everything 2000AD should be.

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Original content (c) 2002 Gavin Hanly (contact 2000AD Review).