The A.B.C. Warriors
The Mek-nificent Seven

Author: Pat Mills
Artists: Kevin O'Neill, Mike McMahon and others
Titan Books
RRP 11.99, US $17.99
ISBN 1 84023 347 8
Available now

In the 21st century, warfare has become too tough for humans. War droids such as the A.B.C. Warriors are sent into battle instead! Sergeant Hammer-Stein is ordered by his human commander to assemble a crack squad of the most fearsome robots ever built...

This volume collects the earliest of the A.B.C. Warriors strips, originally printed in 2000 AD progs 119-139, way back in 1979.

The bulk of the artwork chores are handled by the prolific Mike McMahon, although some early work by Kevin (Nemesis) O'Neill, Brendan (Skin) McCarthy, Brett (Bad Company) Ewins, Dave (Watchmen) Gibbons and Carlos (Strontium Dog) Ezquerra can also be seen in this eclectic mixed bag. McCarthy's art had yet to mature at this stage of his career, looking rather overcrowded and lacking in depth of field. The same can be said of the pages drawn by Ewins, whose style evidently inspired McCarthy. However, McMahon's instalments, stylised though they are, remain as uncluttered as ever.

The writer anthropomorphises his robots, but then he does so to make a point. As usual, there is a moral aspect to Mills' script, though it isn't rammed down your throat. The droids represent the ordinary soldiers who suffer the hardships of war, including death, while their human superiors represent the officers who command from a safe distance and reap all the glory. There are lighter moments of satire, too, as when General Blackblood quotes from Monty Python's Spanish Inquisition sketch!

This being a 2000 AD tale, the episodes are packed with hyperbole and sensationalism. Each time Hammer-Stein wins over a new member to his squad, there follows a cliffhanger in which his superior informs him that the next recruit will be "much more difficult!"

As in many of his scripts, Mills cross-refers to the wider mythology of 2000 AD. The A.B.C. Warriors is itself a prequel to Ro-Busters, which starred a post-war Hammer-Stein. This volume features the tyrannosaur Golgotha - the son of Satanus, who appeared in both Flesh and Judge Dredd. It also ties in the Volgan war from Invasion, although this conflict is merely the starting point for this saga...

These strips originally took pride of place across the four-colour centrefold of the comic, so it's a pity that these spreads have been reproduced in black and white only. Some of the details from the centre of the double-page spreads have also unfortunately been lost, because the binding is different to that of a stapled comic. Apart from these quibbles, however, the appeal of this graphic novel is as clear as A.B.C.

Richard McGinlay

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