Thursday, October 7, 2010

Harry 20 on the High Rock

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 Harry 20 on the High Rock (Rebellion/Simon & Schuster, 2010).

A few weeks back, I mentioned that I had already purchased several collected editions of Rogue Trooper before the latest book to reprint a big chunk of them. Now here is Harry 20 on the High Rock, another strip I have at least three times already, in its original appearance, a colorized American reprint from the late '80s, and a magazine supplement from about ten years back. It has never been collected in book form before, however, and this is the sort of thing that my collector's urge and my otherwise naked shelves need.

The serial originally ran for five months across 1982-83 in the pages of 2000 AD and was written by Gerry Finley-Day and drawn by Alan Davis in one of his earliest professional jobs. For this new edition, Davis contributes a two-page foreword explaining that it was intended that he alternate the art chores with John Watkiss, but he had to bail out, leaving Davis with a heck of a lot of design work and catching up to do. It turns out that the third episode was actually drawn first, and it was interesting to compare the pages and see how the strip's look evolved as a consequence.

At any rate, the strip is the story of Harry Thompson, a political prisoner of a corrupt regime sent to spend a twenty-year sentence on an inescapable satellite prison. It's a little ridiculous and juvenile, and the constant use of pun names for characters will make anybody who found Finley-Day's similar affectations writing Rogue Trooper put this down with a grimace. The writing is dated, boys' adventure stuff, but the artwork is just terrific throughout. Davis has since become better known for his work on Marvel Comics' superhero titles, and his many fans will probably enjoy checking out this material.

This new edition is a pretty nice collection of the comic. Along with the original adventure, there's an eight-page sketchbook section full of interesting notes by Davis about the characters' appearance, and three of the covers from its original appearance in 2000 AD. One of these, incidentally, spoils a pretty critical plot twist, so don't flip towards the back for the bonus stuff until you've read the story! For now, it's a North American exclusive, part of Simon & Schuster's line of reprints from Rebellion, and not available in England. Certainly recommended, although, considering the silly and dated story, perhaps not as loudly as some other material from the period.

1 comment:

Tordelback said...

Pretty sweet cover!