Monday, March 1, 2010

The V.C.s: Back in Action

What I try to do with reviews at this Bookshelf blog is keep it simple and spoiler-free, and let you know whether I'd recommend you pick up a copy of what I just read. Seems to work okay. This time, a brief review of The V.C.s: Back in Action (Rebellion, 2009)

A comic as old as 2000 AD thrives by keeping one eye on its past and another on the shock of the new. Once in a while, the editors will revive a dormant feature. The V.C.s is one that thrived well during its decades in hibernation. The original series, whose creators included Gerry Finley-Day, Garry Leach and Cam Kennedy, ran for nine months in 1980 and was fondly remembered by a legion of fans for many years. One of them was writer Dan Abnett, who finally persuaded editor Matt Smith to give his revival the go-ahead. The resulting series ran for five short runs over four years, the first three of which are collected in this edition from Rebellion.

Set decades after the original, this space opera sees Major Steve Smith, the hero of the first series, living a blue-collar life while Earth has been at peace with their old enemies the G'egeekajee. On the anniversary of the armistice, the aliens surprise Earth with a sneak attack, prompting Smith, who's spent the last several years haunted by the ghosts of his dead colleagues from the first series, to re-enlist. What follows is a fascinating action series which involves several alien races in a long guerrilla war against an implacable enemy.

Honestly, I didn't enjoy it as much as I hoped at the time, and a reread isn't knocking my socks off, either. You could do a million times worse, but Abnett never really finds voices for the disparate characters in Smith's crew, beyond simply "the girl" and "the obnoxious one everybody hates," and consequently it's almost impossible to become engrossed in what happens to them. The artwork, however, is superb throughout. Henry Flint gets things off to a strong start before regular 2000 AD pinch-hitter Anthony Williams comes aboard with his own, inventive stamp. It only disappoints in comparison with the creators' other projects; this simply isn't as exciting as I had been hoping.

Oddly, it looks as though the story won't be concluded anytime soon. As noted, the book reprints three of the series' five runs in 2000 AD. A follow-up book is advertised on the inside back cover with a December '09 release date, but the collection was never issued, and does not appear in Rebellion's plans for 2010.

This book was originally offered for sale to North American comic stores through Diamond, but was withdrawn and canceled with no announcement. Interested readers will have to order it from a British bookseller instead. Readers looking for some intricate outer space action, or fans of Dan Abnett's work for Marvel's "cosmic" titles, could certainly do worse than to check this out.

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