2000 AD Prog Slog

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Prog 691

At one end of the quality spectrum there’s Judge Dredd Necropolis and Slaine The Horned God and at the other there’s Harlem Heroes and Dry Run but sitting somewhere in the middle is Medivac 318 Arcturus. In it, locals on Arcturus riot driving all Terran residents off world and leaving one of the diplomat’s rabbit looking employees to be arrested for collaboration. Perry, a psychic from the Medivac 318 station and originally from Arcturus goes there to rescue the rabbit guy only to be captured himself. Now, in part 9, Perry’s psychic partner, Jay, seeks the help from characters we recognise from the first story in rescuing Perry… and mister rabbit I presume.

I’ve mentioned before how much I like Nigel Dobbyn’s artwork on this strip. He seems to be focused on telling the story, strong character design and effective page composition. Hilary Robinson, however, is a writer whose work I have perhaps been unfairly critical of in the past. I think that maybe I’ve treated her as symbolic of the dip in the standard of writing that 2000 AD has experienced in recent years when, in fact, she’s okay and might have got a lot better had she stuck at it for a bit longer. This is certainly better than the work Michael Fleisher is churning out at the moment and he’s been earning money from comics for years.

In Arcturus, Robinson demonstrates a confidence in story pacing that seems to match that which John Wagner is using in Necropolis at the moment. However, because we know the characters in Necropolis, Wagner’s slower story telling is atmospheric and engaging. In Arcturus, it’s a mistake for Robinson to assume that we remember who is who from the relatively large cast or that we can recall the subtle political tensions that underpin the strip. This might not be the fault of Robinson, however. Tharg’s policy at the moment that writers compose their serialised stories to be read in album collections (even though, ironically, many of these strips never prove popular enough to be collected) might account for it. Arcturus and many of Robinson’s other stories might have been improved had there been a recap at the start of each new episode, a reminder of who’s who every time a character reappeared after an absence and a slight increase in the pacing. It does seem a shame to me that circumstance and bad luck rather than ability might be why she doesn’t write comics anymore.

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