1/09/2010. Contributed by Neale Monks
pub: Prion Books/Carlton. 384 page hardback Price £20.00 (UK). ISBN: 978-1-85375-668-9.
check out website: www.prionbooks.co.uk
Describing '2000AD' as influential is like saying that the sun is hot. Since 1977, '2000AD' has nurtured British writers and artists who have since gone on to find international fame, Grant Morrison and Alan Moore to name but two. Obviously, attempting to publish a single book containing anything even approximating to the 'best' of '2000AD' is impossible, but what Prion Books have done is to present a representative rather than authoritative sampling of some of better strips from the 70s and 80s.
Some of the strips remain popular and well-regarded today, but others will be less familiar. Indeed, one might even argue that strips such as 'Harlem Heroes', 'MACH 1', 'Mean Team' and 'Shako' are questionable additions to a 'Best Of-' volume simply because they aren't particularly good. Certainly, 'MACH 1' was a derivative strip based on American television shows of the time, while 'Harlem Heroes' was merely a pastiche of American basketball rather than based on anything more original or obviously home-grown. On the other hand, while 'Mean Team' wasn't especially clever, it did at least exhibit at an early stage the anarchic violence and black humour that would go on to characterise the best of the '2000AD' serials. Much the same thing could be said about 'ABC Warriors', which isn't a great strip by any measure, but does show some of trademark '2000AD' style that would make later military/SF strips so successful.
But while there are some strips here that aren't exactly top-flight, there are plenty of others that easily earn their place in this collection. There are several 'Judge Dredd' strips including the complete 'Robot Wars' storyline. Other heavy-hitters include 'Rogue Trooper' and 'Strontium Dog', together with two different strips featuring Nemesis the Warlock and his arch-enemy, Torquemada. 'The Ballad Of Halo Jones' is perhaps lightly less well-known today, but remains amongst the most highly regarded stories in part thanks to its originality. Compared to the more violent and very masculine strips that dominated the comic, 'Halo Jones' featured female characters who were altogether more sympathetic, with the content of the strip based around ordinary activities, in the case of the excerpts in this book, simply going shopping. The strip was also significant for its use of language in an imaginative attempt to create futuristic slang and speech patterns.
While most of the strips featured in 'The Best Of 2000AD' are serials and at least some of them are presented as complete serials, the individual episodes are not presented one after the other. Instead, they're interpolated with each other throughout the book. So the five episodes of 'Halo Jones' for example start on pages 110, 147, 242, 300 and 353. There is a contents page that shows the reader where the stories are to be found, but this arrangement still makes it difficult to follow a complete story from start to finish. And while there's a one-page introduction by Tharg the Mighty that explains something of the history of the comic, what's completely lacking is any sort of editorial commentary. This is a book that simply screams out for sort of critical review containing notes on the writers and artists, the origins of the particular characters and strips featured, and how they went on to develop as '2000AD' evolved through the 80s and 90s up to the present day. More unforgivably, some of the strips are presented without any sort of credit line at all, so readers will have no idea who were the writers and artists were.
Production quality is otherwise fairly good, the binding especially is colourful and attractive. Most of the strips are reproduced nicely, though in a few places the lettering isn't as clear as might have been. The balance of strips is fair rather than perfect and while it might have been nice to have had a bit less 'Judge Dredd' and a bit more of some of the other strips, a lot of what's construed as balance will come down to questions of taste. Ultimately, readers of this book will be divided into those who're looking for nostalgia and those interesting in '2000AD' and its cultural influence. The latter will probably be disappointed, but Earthlets looking for a hefty dose of nicely presented '2000AD' history will find this collection good value and entertaining.
Add SFcrowsnest.com daily news updates to your own web site or blog - just cut and paste the code below...
Stephen Hunt's novels - USA