¦ Reviews ¦ Bad
Milligan, Brett Ewins & Jim McCarthy
this book from Amazon.co.uk
What to Expect:
A group of war-hardened soldiers against the alien Krool...
Review by Gavin
There are a couple
of things that long term readers of 2000AD will think when coming to this new
collection of Bad Company. The first is - why doesn't it include Bad Company 3?
The second - after a moments's contemplation is - thank god it doesn't
include Bad Company 3... So indeed, put aside all memories of that unfortunate
revival, and instead witness what may be one of 2000AD's greatest moments, finally
collected in one volume.
We've heard that
Bad Company was originally an idea tooled by Grant and Wagner for the aborted
Judge Dredd Monthly, some time in the distant past. Once that didn't happen, Peter
Milligan is said to have taken up the idea and beat it into the shape we see before
us. I'm not sure anyone knows just how much of Wagner or Grant's idea stayed in
the final version (if you do, let us know in the forum) but the whole piece certainly
has a very "Peter Milligan" feel to anyone who has read his other work,
especially when compared to something like X-Statix.
Bad Company first
saw print way back in Prog 500 in 1986 (as opposed to the first appearing in the
Megazine which is what this collection erroneously tells us) and was something
of a breath of fresh air. Rogue Trooper was all well and good, but was at heart
pulp sci-fi a,d the comic had never really managed to tell a great down and dirty
future war story - i.e. something like Charley's War in space. Bad Company was
to change all that.
Part of its success
was the length and pace. Running 19 episodes, the first series was allowed to
develop slowly, concentrating on developing the individual characters, so that
by the time they started meeting unfortunate ends, we did indeed care about them.
And meet their ends they do, with the growing realisation throughout the series
that none of them seem exempt from some particularly nasty, and indeed sudden
a writer doesn't get to write often...
Told from the perspective
of Danny Franks, the original Bad Company tells how Franks and the platoon he
serves with are taken under the wing of Bad Company. "Taken under the wing"
may be stretching it a little, as their new mentors have little or no regard for
their charges' safety and even use them as bait to draw out the Krool enemy (a
particularly nasty alien species with next to no redeeming characteristics). Their
leader is Kano, a huge hulking frankenstein of a man who seems almost invulnerable
to Franks but hides a secret that he keeps in a small wooden box...
also includes the sequel, comprised of The Bewilderness and the Krool Heart which
further explores the nature of the Krool and Kano's connection to them - as well
as introducing a new batch of company recruits - even nastier than the first lot.
Whereas the first Bad Company has the team grudgingly staying together because
they know nothing better, the second tale is filled with backstabbing and hidden
Both join up together
to make one of the most satisfying stories ever printed in 2000AD. Every episode
of the original run is a joy to read, with many of the episodes working as an
individual act or scene that builds towards a whole. There are very few real cliffhangers,
but plenty of revelations that come at the end of each "act". This is
an immensely satisfying way to construct a weekly strip, and it's a huge testament
to Milligan's writing that he pulls it off. Each week we got a mini story concentrating
on a particular aspect of the planet or on one of the members of Bad Company,
while all the time the overall plot moves on slowly.
Mind you, there isn't
much of a plot in the first series, as Bad Company is really all about the characters.
Whether it's Danny Franks' slow transformation into a card-carrying member of
Bad Company, Mad Tommy's incessant babbling, or Thrax's hatred of Kano - all this
becomes much more important than any overall mission the team may have. This shifts
somewhat in the sequel to a Magnificent 7 style, where the members of Bad Company
are gradually built up and their motivations questioned before they embark on
their mission to try and destroy the Krool Empire once and for all. As such, it
works well as a sequel as it doesn't feel too much like a retread of the original,
while letting us get far deeper inside Kano's head.
Krool witness Kano's good side...
Milligan also peppers
the tales with some completely bizarre sequences - the team getting drunk on mud,
a villain with a harpoon in his head, the truth behind Protoid and finally the
utterly strange, yet fitting end to it all (which gets ruined by the third outing
- so as before, let's pretend that didn't happen...).
As for the art,
it's as much a masterpiece as the story itself. I have to admit to not being a
particular fan of either Brett Ewins or Jim McCarthy (note that's McCarthy
to whoever proof-read the cover..) but together they seem to metamorphosise into
an astonishingly good team. There's something almost pop-artish about much of
the art here. There's a great deal of photocopying of some scenes and enlarging
them or using them in different situations. Now I remember, at the time I first
read Bad Company, that this was something I wasn't terribly impressed with - but
I have to say, it's aged extremely well, and is in many ways ahead of it's time.
The composition of panels that uses these effects works astonishingly well, offering
an almost movie like "zoom in" style, that befits a series where "surprise
revelations" is often the name of the game.
The designs of
the various characters of Bad Company merits mentioning, from the hulking presence
of Kano to the "crazy eyed" look of the Krool warriors. The art also
team excel themselves when depicting Kano's slowly evolving body and indeed in
Danny Franks' slow transformation from new recruit to battle-worn soldier.
had been away for a very long time indeed...
There are other
factors which explain why Bad Company was such a success. The first strip ran
19 episodes straight and it was less than two years after the first episode that
Bad Company 2 wound up, almost 250 pages later. So there's much less hanging around
in-between parts, forgetting who the characters are, something that has be a problem
with 2000AD in the recent past with its shorter runs (although there do seem to
be efforts underway to change this). So the readers didn't have time to forget
the members of Bad Company and when read together in one chunk like this it all
comes together wonderfully.
There is, however,
a concern with the art of Bad Company 1 - in that it's stretched to fit the dimensions
of the trade collection. This is certainly quite annoying and fairly obvious when
you first start reading the book. Bad Company 2 seems to be produced in its original
aspect ratio, but the original can look odd at times - and this may well put some
people off. The typos mentioned above also seem a tad sloppy, and as I've mentioned
before - the absence of any back up material or even an introduction by Peter
Milligan is something of a let-down (and indeed a missed opportunity for many
of the DC reprints).
But at the end
of it, this is a fantastic story, finally reprinted in its entirety (still ignoring
part 3) and is an absolute must-buy for anyone not fortunate to have read it before.
And even if you did read it all those years ago, this story is an essential part
of any respectable 2000AD fan's collection. It won't be the same without it and
at less than a tenner from Amazon it's extraordinarily good value for money.
Very highly recommended
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