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
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
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.
Labels: Alan Grant, Harlem Heroes, Ian Gibson, John Wagner, Jonathon Ross, Jose Casanovas, Mark Millar, Michael Fleisher, Robo-Hunter, Rogue Trooper, Sam Slade, Saviour, Terminator, Two Tone