Created by Peter Milligan and Brendan McCarthy, Sooner or Later first graced the pages of 2000AD in 1986. Surreal and psychedelic, it told the tale of Mickey Swift, an unemployed young man from Camden Town, who is whisked into the future and forced to find work for his passage back in time. Imagine Alice in Wonderland with the quirky visuals of Yellow Submarine, graced with the colours that are the benefit of being on the back page.
Both creators saw that single page as an opportunity to go wild, and did so; visually, it is stunning, almost primal in its colouring, with art that challenges the traditional comic form, inviting the eyes to dance around the page, rather than the usual across and down directions we associate with reading. These one-page episodes were like a shot of espresso, which was to their advantage in one respect, although it meant time spent with Mickey Swift was all too brief and frantic. That said, many of the images and characters created by McCarthy have lingered in the back of the mind for decades, and it has taken this collection to free them back into memory.
Collected, the story works extremely well; it's still as manic as ever, still reading like an acid trip Lewis Carroll would have been proud of, retaining the charm that made it such an eye-opener back in the day. Milligan’s script is not only packed with puns – ranging from the wince inducing to the poetic – but bitingly satirical, as Swift’s travels help him not only find employment, but that sense of self and purpose the character deserves.
Added to this package is the sequel Swifty’s Return. Jamie Hewlett brings his own inimitable style to the story, which would serve him extremely well for Tank Girl, yet it feels initially incongruous here. Stark, despite its incredible detail, it takes a little time to acclimatise after the attention-grabbing colours of the previous story, but once the eye adapts there is much to be taken from it.
Readers are also treated to a couple of Future Shocks, as well as insightful interviews with Milligan and McCarthy, which serve as reminders of the boundaries pushed by the duo over the years. Thirty years on, Sooner or Later remains frighteningly relevant to our times; there's a Mickey Swift within everyone, struggling against the system in search of a bright and hopeful future.
SOONER OR LATER / AUTHORS & ARTISTS: PETER MILLIGAN, BRENDAN MCCARTHY / PUBLISHER: 2000AD / RELEASE DATE: 7TH APRIL