DC Solicitation: Get ready for a science fiction tale of advanced robots and interplanetary war, featuring art by some of comics' greatest talents, including Kevin O'Neill (THE LEAGUE OF EXTRAORDINARY GENTLEMEN), Dave Gibbons (WATCHMEN) and Carlos Ezquerra (JUDGE DREDD)!
The Volgan war has raged for years, spreading off Earth and on to Mars. Now an Earth general has assembled a team of advanced robots - capable of withstanding atomic, bacterial or chemical attack - to finally conquer the "devil planet!" They are Hammerstein, a war-droid whose chest "puffs" with pride when he hears the national anthem; Joe Pineapples, a secretive, ice-cool sniper; Blackblood, so evil he drinks the oil of fallen robots; Mongrol, a mindless killing machine; Happy Shrapnel, a sharpshooting old-timer; Steelhorn, the self-styled "greatest robot ever created"; and Deadlock, the mysterious Khaos-worshipper and wielder of the mystical Ace of Swords. They are the A.B.C. Warriors, and they've come to tame a planet. Spread the word!
On sale Jan 19  o 7.375" x 10.1875" o 136 pg., B&W, $12.95 US (delayed to Jan. 26)
This volume reprints:
The ABC Warriors, prog 119 (June 1979). Story by Pat Mills, art by Kevin O'Neill.
The Retreat from Volgow, prog 120 (June 1979). Story by Mills, art by Brendan McCarthy.
Mongrol, 2 episodes, progs 121-122 (July 1979). Story by Mills, art by Mike McMahon.
The Order of Knights Martial, 2 episodes, progs 123-124 (July 1979). Story by Mills, art by O'Neill (pt 1), Brett Ewins (pt 2).
The Bougainville Massacre, 2 episodes, progs 125-126 (Aug. 1979). Story by Mills, art by McMahon.
Steelhorn, 2 episodes, progs 127-128 (Aug. 1979). Story by Mills, art by McCarthy.
Mars, the Devil Planet, prog 129 (Sep. 1979). Story by Mills, art by McMahon.
Cyboons, 2 episodes, progs 130-131 (Sep. 1979). Story by Mills, art by Dave Gibbons.
The Red Death, 2 episodes, progs 132-133 (Sep. to Oct. 1979). Story by Mills, art by McMahon.
Golgotha, 3 episodes, progs 134-136 (Oct. 1979). Story by Mills, art by "L. John Silver" (Carlos Ezquerra).
Mad George, 3 episodes, progs 137-139 (Nov. 1979). Story by Mills, art by McMahon.
Commentary: For its writer, Pat Mills, recapturing the fun and thunder of the first 21 episodes of The ABC Warriors has been like rebottling a genie. For all his advances in concepts and tone, slightly reworking his approach to the Warriors to appeal to the mid-twenties' audience at whom 2000 AD is now aimed, there's something about the unhindered, manic energy of these episodes that remains timeless and breathlessly cool. While undeniably dated and episodic, The Meknificent Seven is as fabulous and groovy a read as you can find.
The behind-the-scenes backstory is a little confusing, but the capsule version goes like this: As 2000 AD passed its first anniversary, many of its creators were asked to work on a sister comic called Starlord, for which Pat Mills contributed Ro-Busters, a series about a team of robots who rescued humans from amazing disasters. When Starlord was cancelled, Ro-Busters was folded into 2000 AD from issue #86, by which time Mills had grown weary of the concept. Two of the first 2000 AD stories were "origin" tales for the main characters, Ro-Jaws and Hammerstein. The Hammerstein story, which showed the former war-droid on the front lines of Europe in a future war against the Volgan Empire, had proven very popular, and this pointed the way forward for the character.
The ABC Warriors is set in the mid-21st Century, and features Hammerstein as the leader of a robot company. Under orders from a mysterious human commander, he assembles a team of other violent mechanical miscreants over the course of the first eleven episodes in order to be shipped to Mars to work as wandering lawmen of sorts, stamping out evil wherever they find it. This format runs for ten episodes before the story takes what was planned to be a break of just a few months' time.
Despite its huge popularity with readers, Mills found the series to be incredibly frustrating. The 21 episodes are divided into eleven stories of between 1-3 episodes each. Art chores were intended to be split between Kevin O'Neill and Mike McMahon, with O'Neill handling episodes 1-2, 5-6, 9-10, 12-13 and 16-18, and McMahon episodes 3-4, 7-8, 11, 14-15 and 19-21. Unfortunately, O'Neill was unable to meet his deadlines and only completed parts 1 and 5. Brendan McCarthy was drafted in to draw three of O'Neill's episodes, Dave Gibbons completed episodes 12-13 and Carlos Ezquerra did parts 16-18. The result, artistically, is really unsatisfactory. Despite pages of great-looking work from all its contributors, The Meknificent Seven looks like a Mike McMahon title with a lot of fill-ins. Mills set the concept aside in favor of other ideas (principally Nemesis the Warlock) until his characters could find stricter visual continuity. That wouldn't come for another five years, until the characters were revived in the pages of Nemesis, drawn exclusively by Bryan Talbot.
Regardless of the artistic hodgepodge and editorial nightmare, the series remains triumphantly fun, upbeat, mad and ridiculous, succeeding not just with a juxtaposition of its amusing characters with, in its first half, a war comic format, and in its second, a "clean up this here badlands" western, but with many other templates along the way. "The Red Death" begins with the town outlaws taken from their western origin and moved up through archetypes to a 1950s bike gang. There's a Hammer horror homage in the "Golgotha" story, and General Blackblood's soldiers are called Straw Dogs for a reason. John Christopher-esque Tripods pop in for a few pages. In one story, the robots are allied with a tribe of sasquatches in a war against cowboys, and in another, the robots, armed with rocket launchers, are riding on the backs of tyrannosaurs.
In short, this series is intended for nine year-old boys. As such, there's a gleeful, violent anarchy to the proceedings, but there is also, sadly, some embarassingly hokey stuff as well. There's a bit with "drugged oil" which might have been funny when you were nine, and the incarnation of the Red Death virus as a child doesn't make any sense at all, though it prompts some good one-liners from Deadlock. And that robot-hating bureaucrat who taunts Steelhorn looks and sounds like a bad guy from an old Disney movie with Robbie Rist.
Happily, the hokiness can be overlooked pretty easily. What you get with this ABC Warriors volume is mad mechanical metal action, and more brilliantly throwaway ideas per page than just about anything else. This is highly recommended to all comic fans, especially the ones who can remember how cool comics were when they were nine..
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