I am now back at work and, having had a really difficult weekend before starting back, I’ve not had the energy to paint. So I’ve been kicking back and just reading comics in the evenings which is my best way of relaxing when I’m not painting or fishing.
This week I read a brilliant trade paperback (a collection of serialised comic stories) called…
Mega-City Under Cover
Mega-City Under Cover (book 1) was one of the best 2000AD collections I’ve read in a long while. It’s published by Rebellion and well worth a look. The book is based in the world of Judge Dredd, in his city, Mega City One but follows the lives adn struggles of under cover Judges rather than the Dredd style Judge. The book’s split into three main parts with several stories in each.
In the first part you’ve got three brilliant Lenny Zero stories written by Andy Diggle and drawn by Jock. They are like an cross between an edgy cyberpunk tale and a noir detective story. It’s sort of what you’d get if you crossed Raymond Chandler and William Gibson. (Think ‘The Long Goodbye’ mixed with ‘Neuromancer’). The characters were excellent. I couldn’t help rooting for our hero, ‘Zero’, from the start. The stories each have their own tale to tell and each form part of a longer story which fits together beautifully. It was a joy to read.
Jock’s art in the Lenny Zero stories is beautifully done. His style fits the theme perfectly. The stories are all drawn in black and white with grey tones in a way which has an excellent grungy futuristic feel without losing the definition of any of the characters or losing sight of the plot. You always know which character is which and what is going on but still have this beautifully styled artwork. Here’s some more of his work.
The second and third set of stories all come under the Mega-City One undercover cop title ‘Low Life’ written by Rob Williams. The series as a whole follows the adventures of undercover judges in a particularly run down area of the city called ‘Low Life’ where criminality is normal and nasty, and life is cheap. Life for judges in Mega-City One is never easy but if the judges are undercover too the demands of fitting into a criminal fraternity and still being a judge constantly pull their personalities apart which makes for a really interesting read. All of the Low life stories filling the rest of the book are excellent – some of the best 2000AD I’ve ever read.
The first half of ‘Low Life’ is drawn by Henry Flint. Again it’s done in black and white with grey tones and it looks absolutely superb. Henry Flint manages to combine a strong dynamic drawing style with amazingly clear and beautifully rendered art. It’s an absolute pleasure to look at and some of my favourite art of all time.
Here’s some more of the brilliant Flint…
The last third of the book is also beautifully written by Rob Williams but is drawn by Simon Coleby. I’m afraid, in this particular book, I didn’t get on with his art at all. I found it generally too high in contrast – too many solid blacks and solid whites. I struggled to work out which character was which . (The same character frequently looked very different from panel to panel and some different characters looked the same as each other.) As a result I found it difficult to follow the story at times and sometimes couldn’t work out what the picture was of. I think it’s a shame I struggled here because, what I could read of the stories by Rob Williams in this part of the book, was still great. I suspect that if Simon’s art had been passed to a colourist before publishing it would have scanned much better, as coloured clothing could help track which character is which. (Also, I think it’s worth noting that this particular art was first published 12 years ago. Simon’s more current work, on ‘Yaeger’ for instance, is outstanding!)
So overall I’d give this book 4 out of 5 stars. Basically the first two thirds of the book were some of the best comic stories I’ve ever read and it was only let down a little by the art in the last third of the book which I couldn’t get on with personally.
Here’s Jock‘s cover art for the book in all it’s glory… (Again copyright – Rebellion)