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2000 AD Prog Slog

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Prog 733

After years in the wilderness, Sam Slade Robo-Hunter is back! In this new twelve parter, up to its penultimate episode this prog, a computer virus is playing havoc with the robots circuits and causing human carnage throughout the city. Most of the Robo-Hunters have been killed and all that is left is young Gaz, a Two Tone music loving throw back to the twentieth centaury, and Sam, now an ice cream man. On top of that, a Terminator styled police officer has learned that he is a cyborg, realised that his entire life is a lie and gone on a murder spree like you do.

Let’s get the art out of the way first. I like it. Sure, it’s not Ian Gibson but you would have to be the Fault Finder General to criticise father/son team the Joses Casanovas because they’re the wrong person. Their work here has what I think of as a classic 2000 AD tone to it; a pre-prog 500 feel but with the benefit of full colour and strong reproduction.

Now let’s talk about what fresh faced writer Mark Millar has done. First, for the record, I have to state that I have been enjoying Mark Millar’s work for a long time. It dates back to before his 2000 AD stuff to the British indie published Saviour; the series which cast Jonathon Ross as Satan decades before The Mail on Sunday did the same thing more successfully. Like Steve Dillon before him, I was confused by what seemed to take Tharg so long to offer him work. So, you can probably imagine that when I saw that he was the new writer on Sam Slade, I was open to the idea.

Unfortunately, I was disappointed then and it’s only the passage of time and this second look that allows me perhaps an insight into why it might have failed. Millar writes what would have been a fine story had the character and world been his own creation. Unfortunately, the strip carries with it the weight of what came before, even more so than other recent reinventions like Harlem Heroes and Rogue Trooper. It lacks the dynamics, humour and the basic language that made it so successful before. For example, comedy side-kicks Hoagy and Stogie barely appear in it but when they do they are vicious killing machines baying for Sam’s blood. More broadly, there seems to be a lack of robots in general which, given the name of the strip, is confusing. Before, when it was by Wagner, Grant and Gibson, the panel borders were bursting with quirky robot characters making walk-on appearances and disrupting Sam’s day to day life.

I have a couple of possible explanations as for why Millar misinterpreted the strip. Apparently, he was never a reader of 2000 AD when he was growing up which explains why his feel for Sam Slade isn’t instinctive. It could also be that he, being the new boy and keen for the work, is under direction from Tharg to “darken” the tone which explains Hoagy and Stogie being played as sadists in the same way that Rogue Trooper’s equipment no longer talks to him. Whatever the reason, Millar’s version is a damn sight better than Fleisher’s reinventions of classic 2000 AD characters and doesn’t inflame in me anything close to the hatred many Squaxx Dek Thargo feel towards it. In fact, this time around, expecting to be disappointed by it, I found, dare I say it, that I almost liked it.

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10 Comments:

  • ugh robohunter mk II

    Ah well at least killing time is almost about to hit the prog slog so thats something to look foward to....

    and yes I am reading along with you

    By Blogger David page, at 1:01 pm  

  • Dave, do you hate it as much on the revisit?

    By Blogger Paul Rainey, at 2:21 pm  

  • I enjoyed Silo then (and now) but Robo-Hunter by Millar I hated then (and now), the tone is just completely wrong.

    Having read lots of Millar for Marvel recently (Ultimates, Kick-Ass, Wolverine) its clear that he's great at the huge widescreen epics but lacklustre when it comes to character and humour, two things that wagner/grant did so well

    By Blogger Derek, at 9:32 pm  

  • Paul

    yes I do its still as bad as I remember it of coruse this one is poetry compared to return to verdus and a large chunk of the later 3 part stories

    By Blogger David page, at 12:15 pm  

  • Not only is the tone wrong, and the world unrecognisable from what had been established, it's all so juvenile in comparison to Wagner and Grants deceptively sophisticated charactersiation and humour. Every character is reinvented as "dark and gritty", including Hoagy and Stogie! The dialogue is stodgey and stupidly portentous. It feels like a superhero comic fan writing for 2000AD as if he's been asked to "do a Dark Knight" on these characters. Theres an arrogance that seems to assume that Robohunter is as niave a piece of kids literature as Marvelman, when in fact, the original is that much more sophisticated than the make over.

    Plus, we are meant to take seriously a robot who thinks he is human, but can fire rockets from his .... wrists! I say this again... from his wrists. And this is (from memory here) apparently a secret robot policeman, that the public mustn't know is really a robot. Wouldnt the rockets from his wrists(!) be a bit of a giveaway?

    For me, Millars attempts at being more 'adult' remain woefully immature, patronising and adolescent in comparison to the lightness of touch of the Wagner Grant period.

    By Blogger Leigh, at 2:58 pm  

  • Derek, fair comment although I'm not sure that I agree with you entirely.

    By Blogger Paul Rainey, at 10:47 pm  

  • Leigh, I think we all pretty much agree with you. Certainly seems to be a misguided reworking but I wonder who decided to "Dark Knight" it up. I'm not entirely convinced that it was Millar (although, if it wasn't he was probably more than happy to go along with it). I have a soft spot for his work overall, including much of his 2000 AD stuff, so don't hate it in the same way that others seem to do. I certainly seem able to seperate it from the original version more successfully than I can the makeovers of Rogue Trooper and Harlem heroes from their first versions.

    By Blogger Paul Rainey, at 10:54 pm  

  • Leigh, I think we all pretty much agree with you. Certainly seems to be a misguided reworking but I wonder who decided to "Dark Knight" it up. I'm not entirely convinced that it was Millar (although, if it wasn't he was probably more than happy to go along with it). I have a soft spot for his work overall, including much of his 2000 AD stuff, so don't hate it in the same way that others seem to do. I certainly seem able to seperate it from the original version more successfully than I can the makeovers of Rogue Trooper and Harlem heroes from their first versions.

    By Blogger Paul Rainey, at 10:54 pm  

  • I tend to lean the other way - Fleischers rewrites of Rogue and Harlem Heroes are not messing with the originals directly - they are reimaginings of the concepts. Sure, they are inept reimaginings, but they don't raise my ire more than Junker.

    With Millars Robohunter, theres the idea that this is somehow the same Sam Slade (though how is never explained, given that it deviates so wildly from the original). On top[ of that, theres something just plain nasty I detect in Millars writing - a kind of spite and disregard for the characters and the readership - it might be very punk, but it just doesnt work for me - like a teenager slagging off his dad for not being cool. I'm open to the idea that reading Millars openly disrespectful interviews in the small press at the time may have coloured my judgement!

    By Blogger Leigh, at 10:10 am  

  • I don't recall any interviews with Millar from that time, myself, but in general, he always comes across as having a sense of theatre and I can believe that he might have appeared provocative. Also, his characters are often written with a sense of "spite" but, usually, they tend to redeem themselves in the end. I guess I don't really disagree with you on his Robo-Hunter, Leigh. It's just that, in general, I like Millar's comics and, at this time, wanted him to succeed.

    By Blogger Paul Rainey, at 10:14 am  

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