by Gavin Johnston on February 28, 2018

Writer: Pat Mills
Artists: Clint Langley
Publisher: Rebellion

Anyone who reads the regular 2000AD reviews here at Comics the Gathering may well be aware that this reviewer is not enamoured with ABC Warriors. The story of a band of anti-establishment robots is brash, frequently filled with prolonged lectures on social issues, awful puns, and unending and repetitive fight scenes, with characters who make decisions based on what the plot needs as they battle against two dimensional villains. I approached ABC Warriors: Mek Files 4 with low expectations. I was wrong.


These stories were originally published in the weekly 2000AD anthology in 2007, and are now collected in the fourth volume of ABC Warrior stories. After consigning one of their number, MekQuake, to an asylum for insane robots The Warriors travel across a heavily industrialised future Mars to meet his replacement. Along the way they share their stories of the role they each played in the Volgan War, hundreds of years ago on Earth, when they first encountered the robot who will soon join their ranks. Meanwhile, back at the asylum, MekQuake is making plans of his own…


Having not expected a great deal from Mek File 4, it was a huge surprise when it delivered so much. A fun plot, with over the top and well defined characters, packed with action.


This mechanised world is brought to life with photorealistic art of the unreal. Big, chunky robots war their way across each page, with highly detailed and epic battle scene. The shiny chrome of these killing machines is framed with glorious light flares, gunfire and smoke. The art is the star here, looking like it has been lifted from a big budget CGI sci-fi movie, or triple-A video game. Main characters appear in impeccable detail in full page or double page spreads, sometimes adding nothing to the story, but just so we can revel in how utterly beautiful this all looks. At times, storytelling is abandoned as the reader must turn the page to take in double page spreads printed on their sides, just so the characters are larger that usual.


In a weekly anthology published only a few pages at a time, this would be ponderous. Frequently, nothing happens for several pages, other than characters posing for another close-up. Collected in a single 200 page volume, this makes sense. Its feels slow, yes, but when you’re enjoying yet another splash page of Joe Pineapples shooting his rifle, or Hammerstein being grumpy, it's safe in the knowledge that you wont have to wait seven days to see if the plot will edges forward next week. Enjoy at your own leisure.


The only weakness to the art might be on the rare occasions when humans appear: Clint Langley’s unique and innovative method is to use photo models, which are then manipulated into the digital art. It’s a fascinating idea, but can make the occasional panel look overly posed, reminiscent of the photo stories that were once popular in teenage magazines.


In turn, each of the cast share stories of their past, detailing their role in a long forgotten war. It’s an entirely unsubtle format, with extended flashbacks which run for many pages, the characters taking turns to reveal a connection that binds them. At one point, a character simply says “now, I will tell you my story”, with no lead in. It gets us where we need to go, with no pretence that we are doing anything other that leading into another wonderfully realised action sequence.


The frequent puns which haunt later stories are largely absent. A few appear (the asylum is named “Broadband”, after Britain’s famous Broadmoor. Spherical Volgan war machines are named “Eyepods”), but on the whole they are more focussed and sparingly used that the scattergun wordplay I was expecting from reading more recent adventures.


The stories collected in ABC Warriors: Mek Files 4 are yet another piece of the ongoing saga of the ABC Warriors. Readers expecting any sort of resolution will be sorely disappointed. Even several years after these stories were originally published, the tale has no end in sight. The battle might be won, but the war rages on.

Our Score:


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