Hooray! Another fruit of the IPC copyright purchase has hit the shops – now alongside the reprinting of classic stories from the IPC years, we are also seeing new stories written and drawn by current creators, inspired by those glory days and revisiting old setups and characters. “Scream! and Misty” (also available in a variant cover entitled “Misty and Scream!”) is out now. What’s in it? And – the bigger question – is it any good?
- Cover: Henry Flint
- The Thirteenth Floor (artists John Stokes / Frazer Irving, writer Guy Adams)
- The Dracula File (artist Tristan Jones, writer Grainne McEntee)
- Death-Man: The Gathering (artist Henry Flint, writer Feek)
- Return of Black Max: Blood Moon (artist Simon Coleby, writer Kek-W)
- The Return of the Sentinels (artist Ben Willsher, writer Hannah Berry)
- Fate of the Fairy Hunter (artist Dani, writer Alec Worley)
First of all, rightly or wrongly, this is more 2000AD than it is Misty (or Scream!, as far as I can tell, though I am not an expert on that title). The art and the story telling is generally much more focused on current styles than traditional ones – and when you flick through this 52-page special it’s noticeable what a variety of styles is included within, much more so than in the 32 pages of Misty. There are traditional elements: John Stokes starts off the issue in the story revisiting “The Thirteenth Floor”: Max the psychotic computer who runs the decrepit building gets us off to a great start, though the ending to the first story is a little clumsily handled. This story is split between the black and white traditional art that Stokes provides and a colourful interlude drawn by Fraser Irving, which is very definitely 2000AD. The combination works well it itself, but I’m left slightly unsure as to what Rebellion are trying to do here – attract an audience for the reprint titles (blurbed as a whole-page advert on the following page), pull their 2000AD audience over to a new title with a different sort of inspiration, or what?
“The Dracula Files”, likewise, is more 2000AD than anything else – and is the most scrappily-drawn of the offerings to boot, I think. It’s quite well-written but some of the visual story-telling is hard to follow, and below in the last panel you can see an example of a very awkwardly-drawn hand, which looks like the artist changed their mind about part-way through.
“Deathman: The Gathering” makes it clear that this is a remix and reworking of the traditional characters. Characters from all sorts of IPC titles, not just Scream!, make it into this one – even alien shape-shifter Paddy McGinty’s Goat does! It’s readable and fun – how often do you get to see the Leopard of Lime Street mixing it up with Blake Edmonds from Death Wish? This is very far from a complete story though, and again I am not quite sure where Rebellion are planning on taking this from here on in. Are Rebellion going to launch a separate line or something? This feels somewhat similar to some of the Vertigo comics from back in the day, when that is what DC did to free themselves from the constraints of their mainstream universe.
“Return of Black Max: Blood Moon” is one of the most successful combinations of tradition and modern styles, it feels to me. The art is bang up to date but the panel sizing, story telling, and even the story themes are just like what you would get in the old girls comics at least. It leads off with a disturbing dream that Maxine Newland is recounting to her schoolfriends the next day – and continues with detention, an absent parent, a spooky item from the past, and an inadvertent trip to another dimension. Maxine even ends the story asking herself, troubled: “He said I wasn’t a girl. That I was a…thing. W-what if he was right?” That self-doubt could have come straight out of a girls weekly comic!
There are only two Misty-inspired stories. The second one (“Fate of the Fairy Hunter”) is a short, complete story that has a lot of similarities to the horror shorts included in that title; less gore though. There’s a twist in the tale but I have to say that the Misty versions would have ended a lot less happily for the female lead – a bit of a shame to have missed out that disinhibited proper horror element.
“The Return of the Sentinels” is the big ticket item for many of the people reading this post, I suspect. It didn’t disappoint me – I loved it. It’s tightly written and the art is great. I can’t give away much about it because I know lots of people will want to read it unspoiled – suffice to say that it doesn’t explain anything about how the Sentinels work or what happened to the characters in the original story, but it compresses the spooky feeling of wandering into a parallel world that is very definitely not right into only a few pages. It’s not clear that there is a chance of writer Hannah Berry developing this modern-day story further, but if that was an option then I can tell you that I’d be there in a flash.
So, yes. Much of this is 2000AD-has-fun: almost a fanfiction reworking of those original characters and stories (and nothing wrong with that, let me clarify). “Black Max” and “Sentinels” feel like they could be the start of something new and great on their own terms, which I’d love to see. Some other bits miss the target to a greater or lesser extent: in addition to the scrappy drawing in the Dracula Files, Henry Flint’s front cover is great on the creepy ghouls (I love Ghastly McNasty holding a selfie stick!) but much less great when depicting Misty herself (who looks like a plastic doll with a blank expression rather than a mysterious one). Overall: a definite ‘yes’, especially as tastes inevitably vary and that is the particular strength of the anthology title.