Review: Mean Team (2000AD) / Author: John Wagner, Alan Grant, Alan Hebden, Hilary Robinson / Artist: Massimo Belardinelli, Ron Smith / Publisher: 2000AD Graphic Novels / Release Date: March 14th
This 2000AD reprint is a bit of a strange collection. Mean Team starts off as a futuristic murder-sports and slavery parable, and then becomes a ridiculous fantasy adventure. Finally it transforms into a rather silly piece on the nature of freedom and identity. In many ways, it’s the sort of thing 2000AD is famous for – utterly bonkers stories told in a very beautiful way.
As you can probably tell, the storytelling is rudderless. There doesn’t seem to be any arc at work here, just mad ideas piled on top of each other. The adventure begins with Bad Jack Keller and his Mean Team, a band of Death Bowl players only days away from making history by achieving the highest ever score. Thanks to a series of extremely unlikely events punctuated by moments of violence, the crew find themselves battling nightmarish monsters as the tale descends into a sort of fairy tale fantasy. The last story is more of an end-cap to the entire work, and showcases a single member of the cast, the telepathic panther. This is the highlight of the book, even though it doesn’t really go anywhere. As we say, it’s an odd comic book. There is no coherent logic to this world, but if you put your brain in neutral it can be entertaining.
The art is the most engaging thing about the work, most of it drawn by Massimo Belardinelli. This artist, though an acquired taste for many, was at his best when he could explore crazy concepts and ideas, and Mean Team is certainly full of those. Ron Smith drew the last story in the book, and he manages quite well, capturing the beauty of the big cat extremely efficiently.
If you like utterly crazy, very pretty, dream-like and shambling tales of adventure and oddness, this is for you. It isn’t 2000AD at its best, but it certainly showcases the diversity and strangeness of that long-running and rather wonderful anthology magazine.