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Warriors - The Meknificent Seven
- 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:
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.
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.
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.
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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