2000 AD Prog Slog

Friday, October 03, 2008

Prog 656

It’s good to see that during this old school revival 2000 AD is currently going through, where writers John Wagner and Pat Mills seem to be returning to and even surpassing previous form, there is still space for the best of the new wave. In Zenith Phase III by Grant Morrison and Steve Yeowell, another Maximan has assembled together hundreds of heroes from various worlds to fight against the pan-dimensional creatures that have already taken over realities 666 and 257 and now threaten the whole of the multi-verse.

There’s nothing like a team-up of your favourite superheroes so, considering that I hardly know any of these characters, some of whom appeared in old comics published by Fleetway and the rest being disguised versions of other company properties, it’s impressive that I find this story as engaging as I do. It feels like a lo-fi and more soulful UK based version of Crisis on Infinite Earths where all the various versions of DC characters up until that point had a big final team-up (until the next time) before the publishers consolidated together their worlds and re-launched them (sort of). With Judge Dredd seemingly about to be replaced by his younger clone brother and both Rogue Trooper and Harlem Heroes going through the reboot process, Zenith Phase III feels as if its influence is leaking out of the confines of its five pages a week.

Morrison’s skill for releasing the story in a deceptively casual way is on display here. Every line of dialogue, every action says something informative about the characters or the unfolding tale. Meanwhile, the hundreds of heroes Yeowell has had to draw all seem to have their own physical personalities. Some look like people you might know, others walk around in costumes that don’t quite fit while the bad guys do radiate genuine menace.

It must be frustrating for those of you who have never read Zenith before hearing how great it is to know that the creators are unwilling to allow any of the books to come back into print. I do wonder, however, if Morrison and/or Yeowell softened their position there would still be issues regarding reprinting Phase III anyway given that some of the characters that appear in it now seem to be owned by DC Comics or Rebellion.

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  • When this appeared, I remember getting increasingly bored and skimming successive episodes until I decided to read it all in one go towards the end. I read somewhere recently that Grant Morrison structures his stories so the fun comes in reading them the second time around and this was definitely true of this. It's a very twistily complex story. I haven't read infinite crisis yet but it'll be great if it's half as good as this. A huge cast, full of memorable characters, even though some of them only appear for a panel or two . Ben is the my favorite character, the commie counterpart to Desperate Dan, who wins the day and saves the universe. Billy Whiz dies heroically and Zenith is his usual brattish self. The art is fantastic, the best use of black and white since V for Vendetta. It's a real shame this series isn't more widely available. An added bonus of republishing it would be to reveal where Mark Millar's been stealing all his ideas from, for the last twenty years...

    By Blogger Tam, at 10:43 pm  

  • I was looking for something else in the back Progs recently and ended up rereading most of Phase 3. At the time, it was probably my least favourite part of the whole series. Mostly because of the proliferation of characters who I had the vague idea I was supposed to recognise and didn't. Reading it again reminded me of all the great little moments and that being the worst volume of Zenith is a bit like being my least favourite leg.

    I noticed in an earlier post you were bemoaning the lack of information on the official website. The old database is currently accessible here:

    By Blogger Peter, at 5:29 pm  

  • Cheers Tam. I wouldn't say that Crisis compares favourably with Zenith Phase III. Please don't assume that you'd like it because of my half baked comparison.

    By Blogger Paul Rainey, at 5:02 pm  

  • Thanks for the link, Peter. Very handy :-)

    By Blogger Paul Rainey, at 5:03 pm  

  • Peter, thanks so much for the link to the 2000AD database. like Paul, I too had been lamenting its loss since the 2000ad website had been relaunched. In my view, its the best 2000AD-related thing on the web. (the prog slog is a close second!)

    By Blogger Simon C, at 4:51 am  

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