ABC WARRIORS: RETURN TO MARS
It's been a few years since 2000AD's ABC Warriors had their all-time high of The Chronicles of Khaos and Hellbringer, but the bloodthirsty war bots are still going. Return to Mars collects their most recent adventures, taking the band of robo-bastards back, as the title suggests, to Mars.
There was a phase the magazine went through, a while ago, where the art droids let new-fangled art styles take over 2000AD a little more than maybe it should have. This led to some of the more unreadable stories we've had; a mess of computer illustrated trash and digital colouring. A publication built on experimentation and innovation, we can hardly begrudge 2000AD the things it does that may not be to all tastes. Tharg hasn't disposed of this entirely, but recent years have seen the mag back to its more 'traditional' best – art that makes sense and (usually) looks recognisably '2000AD'. One of the exceptions to this being Clint Langley's illustration in Return to Mars.
Thankfully, given the characters and story, the art style fits better than it would on, say, Slaine, alternating between colourful (but often almost incomprehensible) digital imagery and more accessible (but still fairly scribble-y) black and white detailed pieces. If it comes up wanting, that's down to personal preference and being spoiled by the likes of Kevin O' Neill and Simon Bisley in the past. Otherwise, it's business as usual for Deadlock, Hammerstein and company, and old age hasn't mellowed any of them – Blackblood is still a treacherous bastard, Mek Quake an insane imbecile and Joe Pineapples achingly cool. Re-joining the team after a leave of absence (well, he was dead for a while) is the mechanoid mechanic Happy Shrapnel. Together, the team are tasked with keeping peace on Mars... if they can stop fighting each other, that is. Writer Pat Mills has thankfully resisted the urge for sentiment, allowing his characters to be as untrustworthy and volatile as they ever were; most notably the always fun Blackblood and hilarious Mek Quake.
Return to Mars isn't as good as the stories of the past, but it's still a cracking adventure with some of 2000AD's best characters. It could be funnier, sharper and less divisively illustrated, but this remains one Big Job that's well worth clocking in for. And it finishes on a doozy of a cliffhanger too....
INFO: ABC WARRIORS: RETURN TO MARS / AUTHOR: PAT MILLS / ARTIST: CLINT LANGLEY / PUBLISHER 2000 AD / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW