Thursday, March 19, 2009

Mega-City Undercover

In other news, I ordered one of the recentish 2000 AD trade collections which Diamond should have sent to my shop in the spring of 2008. They didn't, and a reorder also fumbled, claiming that it was no longer available, so I finally broke down and ordered Mega-City Undercover from Amazon UK. It's a very good book, and I'm glad I finally own it, but it must be said that this is a peculiar little collection by Rebellion's standards. It's effectively the first volume of Rob Williams' Low Life, a Dreddworld series about a pair of undercover judges which began in 2004's prog 1387. However, the book actually begins with the five episodes of Lenny Zero, a similar series by Andy Diggle and Jock which first appeared in the Megazine in 2000-2002, and which was prematurely curtailed when the creators signed exclusive contracts with DC Comics.

Despite the nice attraction of having all of Lenny Zero's appearances in one place, it is certainly Low Life which is the selling point of the book. This has been one of the more successful of the recent semiregular series. At the time I'm writing this, the eighth Low Life story, "Creation," is currently running in the prog. The first six of them, totalling 29 episodes, appear in this book.

One thing that makes Low Life so interesting is that it's a "dual-lead" strip. Some of the stories focus on the passionate, liberal Judge Aimee Nixon, and others on the very deep-cover, hopelessly insane Dirty Frank, who somehow manages to work as an effective judge despite having lost his mind some years previously. Usually, the Nixon stories tend to take a more serious approach, while Dirty Frank's are played with a much lighter tone. The characters were created by Rob Williams and Henry Flint, who drew the first 13 episodes in the book. The remaining episodes were drawn by Simon Coleby and first appeared in 2005-07.

Since I'm just now finishing the year 2000 in my reread and would prefer to read these stories in their original context when I reach that period in a few months' time, I only gave the Mega-City Undercover book a brief scan to confirm the quality and contents. The reproduction is fantastic and it includes introductory pages by Diggle and Williams as well as a nice new cover by Jock. After an initial moment of eyebrow-furrowing over Rebellion's choice to use an umbrella approach to collect the stories, I decided I actually prefer this format to issuing a Low Life-only book. Certainly with only one new story a year, it will be some time before we ever see a second collection, but who knows, perhaps Diggle and Jock will return to Lenny Zero before too much longer and future tales of that ne'er-do-well can also be included.

(Excerpted from Thrillpowered Thursday, March 19 2009.)

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