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THE VIGILANT: MAELSTROM

by Gavin Johnston on August 01, 2018

Writers: Simon Furman; Bruce Leslie; Karl Stock; aaron Stack
Artists: Simon Coleby; DaNi; Henrik Sahlstrom; Warwick Fraser-Coombes; Staz Johnson
Colourists: John Charles
Letterers: Simon Bowland; Sam G;
Publisher: Rebellion 



In 2016, publishers Rebellion obtained the rights to a massive back catalogue of comics originally produced by British publishers IPC and Fleetway. This gave the Rebellion the right to reprint or redevelop a raft of comics originally printed in the 1970s and 80s, and to reimagine characters who had long since faded into obscurity. It's a treasure trove they have been eager to exploit, with reprints of classics like Charley’s War, Misty and Scream!.

 

The Vigilant throws together a bunch of uniquely British superheroes from different classic comics to form a single, crime fighting team. Such loved characters as The Leopard (who was scratched by a radioactive leopard), the Steel Commando (a robot left over from WW2), and Blake Edmonds (a scarred Evel Knievel) join forces to prevent some bad guys from using the powers of Adam Eterno (a dimension jumping wizard, who might not exist).

 

Rebellion don’t usually do superheroes. Their mainstay, 2000AD, might feature future cops, aliens and robots, but men in tights rarely appear. When they do, it’s in the form of intelligent, genre-bending satire (such as the 90’s Zenith, from Grant Morrison and Steve Yeowell). Straight up superpowered good guys fighting superpowered bad guys is new ground for the publisher.

 

 

The Vigilant: Maelstrom features one full length story, two individual tales that are tangentially linked to the first, and a stand alone story. There’s a lot happening. Most of the strips are non-stop action, in keeping with format of the original comics where stories where told quickly over only a handful of pages.

 

 

Originally each of these characters would have had their own tales, set in their own universe. They would each have their own set up, conflict and resolution. Packed together like this, the individual characters aren’t given much of a chance to shine. Some only receive a few lines, and don’t really achieve anything. A few are little more than cameos.

 

Even the characters who appear in the stand alone stories are rushed. The Steel Commando, whose stand alone story gets close to being satire on how soldiers are mistreated when peace comes, instead just falls short, ending with a few quick sight gags. The character Thunderbolt, who is closest to the superhero cliché, swoops in, says a few inspiring lines, and swoops out again.

 

The Vigilant is reliant on nostalgic Easter eggs. For readers who remember the original comics, this will likely be a fun ride, seeing how many reference you can spot. For those unfamiliar with comics from thirty-plus years ago, many of the small reference will be lost – with variable importance. For example, there are knowing mentions of the controversial “kids rule“ cover of Action from 1976, which is fun to notice.. At other times, not being familiar with Max from The Thirteenth Floor will result in whole scenes making little sense.

 

Stood alone, Vigilant should be a fun comic. The writers have squeezed so much into these pages, it’s technically impressive, and the art maintains a high level of action throughout without losing track. Unfortunately, it can’t stand on it’s own. The characters are barely realised, and the plot is confusing without at least some prior knowledge.

 

Some of these characters have the potential to be really interesting, and dragged into the modern day could have original things to say. However, the desire to squeeze so many characters into a single story prevents anyone from shining, and the story has no modern edge, other than the vague awareness of how silly it is which prompts one character to warn that they have “bypassed the credulity filters”.

 

For readers who are eager for a bit of nostalgia, Vigilant might scratch that itch. As an introduction to these characters, there’s too much here and Vigilant falls flat

 

Our Score:

5/10

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