Saturday, November 18, 2006

2000 A.D. #7

2000 A.D. #7 (vol. 2), October 1986, Quality Periodicals
writers: Gerry Finely-Day & Alan Moore
artists: Dave Gibbons & Jim Baikie

I haven't done the research, but from what I've observed, many of the "big names in American comics" were largely the big names in British comics for a few years first. In this issue of 2000 A.D. Presents, Dave Gibbons, Alan Moore, Alan Davis, John Wagner, and Steve Dillon are all credited with current or future Quality Comics projects, while in the states, the same names would soon be found on such groundbreaking titles as The Watchmen, Detective Comics, and Preacher. Interesting, the difference a year makes. Again, this could be common knowledge for many collectors, but considering I found this issue in a quarter bin, I'm surprised these old series aren't more coveted.

Featuring two stories in an expanded 52-page format, 2000 A.D. #7 is a seemingly hefty issue, until I realized that four of those pages include the covers, not to mention the interior's six full sized ads. That's still a low ad-to-page ratio, and the stories are gripping enough that this issue quite a page-turner -- a faster read than I would've expected, not for lack of content, but for its sheer intensity. In its day, this issue was quite a steal: "16 Extra Pages -- Still Only $1.25!" For a buck cheaper, I feel like I should do some community service.

This issue's cover story stars Dan Dare, a veteran space fighter in the year 2177, who is assigned the dangerous task of charting the Lost Worlds, a quadrant of the galaxy that many explorers have entered . . . but none have returned! The Solar Astronautical and Space Administration (S.A.S.A.) offers Dare a hand-picked crew, but Dare insists on recruiting his own men, controversially from the man-made satellite Topsoil, "a hangout for outlaws and outcasts!" There, Dare provokes a super-strong Russian space service reject dubbed "the Great Bear," an ace pilot named Polanski, and a hitman whose weapon was fused to his hand in subzero space! During their inaugural adventures together, Dare and his crew best a horde of solar-powered goblins, a flurry of flesh-eating desert dustdevils, and a race of Roman-esque vampires, usually more so with their wits than with their interstellar artillery. The way Gibbons draws Dare, he comes off like Captain Kirk meets Dirty Harry, a tough guy boasting a fair balance of hubris and self-preservation, of survival instincts and well-honed heroics. Despite the narrative's repetitious establishing captions -- which makes me wonder if this tale was originally published in its four separate chapters in a different forum -- I was engrossed the whole time, thanks to the writer's well-paced implementation of action and introspection. The ideas presented in this story alone would make for a compelling feature film -- if the space odyssey shtick hadn't been done to death by now.

Moore's back-up story, Skizz, brings the wonder of space down to earth, literally, as a group of runaways tries to rush an alien castaway to safety. Where they're going, I'm not sure, as the government seems hell-bent to bring the creature in, for scientific study, we can only assume. Again, Moore pours on the narrative, with little descriptive blurbs about his characters that impress more as repetitive than insightful. When one of the characters tries to console the alien by assuring him that earthlings have traveled as far as the moon, so surely they could get him home, Moore captures the essence of the whole issue. With that "assurance," the alien knows he's doomed, because his planet is well beyond the bounds of humanity's resources, and both Dan Dare and Skizz are all about the things that could exist outside the scope of our comprehension. I wonder if this sums up the breadth of British comics in that era, as well.

In their attempt to show us some of the cosmos beyond, the contributors of 2000 A.D. revealed some of the talents outside of our own backyard. Fortunately, this issue proves that the "big names of comics" already had their heads in the clouds before we fan-folk considered them household names. Oh, I don't use that phrase -- "head in the clouds" -- negatively. Obviously, that's where some the best stories are waiting to be told.

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