Among all seven gajillion or so of us who like reviewing "graaaaphic novels" and things on the internet, there's a subset who really enjoy the comic juxtaposition of elements that really occur best in the comic medium. Things like J. Jonah Jameson yelling at Godzilla, things like that. It still blows my mind that no publicist has sat these folks down, what with the big audience that they command, and shown them The ABC Warriors, a high-concept science fiction serial written by Pat Mills. It began in 1979 and new episodes have appeared every few years in the pages of 2000 AD. There's a bit in one of their earlier adventures, reprinted in this new American edition, in which war robots with bazookas ride around the deserts of Mars on the backs of tyrannosaurs.
Let me repeat that for the benefit of those not paying attention: ROBOTS WITH BAZOOKAS ON TYRANNOSAURS ON MARS. Drawn by Carlos Ezquerra. This is, in point of fact, the greatest thing to ever appear in fiction.
For those of you who haven't been paying attention, the ABC Warriors are a motley squad of war robots assembled in the waning days of a global conflict against the Volgan Empire. They include a cowboy robot, a sniper who communicates in bursts of letters and numbers, a Volgan general reprogrammed to obey allied commands but who retains his two-timing, traitorous nature and a shrouded, grinning maniac who puts that whole "sufficiently advanced technology indistinguishable from magic" business to the test. They are the coolest team of backstabbing, squabbling characters to appear in comics, and if they don't hypercharge your inner ten year-old, then you were obviously never ten.
The artwork on this initial series of 21 episodes was mainly provided by Mike McMahon, with guest appearances by Ezquerra, Kevin O'Neill, Dave Gibbons, Brett Ewins and Brendan McCarthy. About five years later, Alan Moore contributed the only episode of the long-running series that Mills did not write; it's illustrated by Steve Dillon and it makes its first appearance since its original outing in this new collection by Rebellion, distributed in the US by Simon & Schuster. The new book also includes a six-page framing story by Mills and O'Neill that originally appeared in Titan Books' old collection of this serial.
"The Meknificent Seven" has appeared in print many times before this, but the current edition is the first one aimed at mainstream bookstores, with the Alan Moore episode added as a sweetener for anybody wary about buying it again. It also includes a new foreword by Pat Mills and, as a supplement, five of the old "Fact Files" about the characters. These are really charming, and while the series has "grown up" along with its readers and more recent episodes are aimed more at adults, the "collect 'em all" nature of these pages reminds me that, once upon a time, this was the most awesome idea in kids' comics ever.
As I write this, the book has been out for about six weeks, and I'm a little concerned about the lack of publicity out there. I know that Mills was doing his usual awesome job of promotion in California last month, with signings at an area Barnes & Noble and an appearance at the San Diego Comic-Con, but somebody at Simon & Schuster really needs to start knocking down some doors to tell people that they're carrying these 2000 AD collections, and that they are fantastic. You can't rely on me; my audience is very small, and they almost never listen when I tell them to buy things. Get some review copies out, guys, because everybody in America needs to know that if they have a ten year-old boy in the house, or anybody else who remembers how hotdamned spectacular wild things like this were like when they were that age, then their house needs the ABC Warriors. Highly recommended.