Friday, 28 July 2017

Anderson Psi Files Vol 1

 Another fresh look at a collection of classic 2000AD stories from neophyte Chris McAuley

It's not often I put down a book thoughtfully, gently going through some of the issues raised and realising how brave the writers are to tackle the issues facing a great many people.  It's something I haven't seen the 'big two' do in their mainstream characters.

When I read the Dredd Casefiles I was introduced to Cassandra Anderson, a breath of fresh air in what was a fairly male dominated comic strip, a casual and new way of seeing interactions between Judges, also introducing a new department - the Psi department. It's fair to say that this character brought a lot of important changes and additions to the Dredd mythos and became very popular (possibly due to the uninhibited fashion in which she was drawn, showing her femininity unashamedly)

With the arrival of the Judge Anderson: The Psi Files volume 01 arriving this Bank Holiday weekend, I found myself, mentally, in a completely different place to where I was when reading Dredd.  Obviously with this series the creators realised that the character wouldn't tell the same stories as those in the Dredd universe - these are more 'supernatural' in content but include sci-fi elements as well – including various types of mental phenomena.

So we begin with Anderson getting a full-on Dark Judge story of her own.  The Dark Judges seem a natural foil for Anderson - she can battle them on not just a physical level but on a mental plane as well.  As villains they are a little more difficult to dispose of, for the writers this must be a nightmare, but for readers it’s fantastic - we don't just get the usual - shoot them and they are dead end panel.

David Roach from Helios
In this story, we get Anderson tricked by the superfiend himself into travelling back into the Dark Dimenson and freeing him and his cohorts to wreck havoc around Mega City One. The next episode features possession, showing that these events happen in the scifi world of the Mega Cities and that there are Specific Exorcist Judaical squads that deal with them.  It's a great story with a twist on the 'hero goes into a dangerous situation to save an innocent' cliche.

In the Hour of the Wolf, we see a sleeper East Meg City agent cell activate and attempt to free Orlok the soviet assassin - this sets up a plotline alerting the reader to the fact that this character will be a significant element in Anderson's future and shows us that East Meg is still and a continuous threat to Mega Cities future. This is quite a serious story and dispenses with the character being a figure of satire or comedy - it shows us a slightly colder Anderson than we are used to.

I enjoyed the 'Random Man' storyline where we see a sociopath who chooses to abdicate moral decisions by rolling a dice and acting out whatever action that number on dice dictates. It's a nice crime thriller, a little bit Columbo where we know who the killer is and we are watching the detective piece together the evidence. 

The one stand out story is an epic one, Engram. It tackles an incredibly difficult issue that of child sexual abuse. It takes a lot of courage to include that in a comic storyline and it's done incredibly well. This is a spoiler if you haven't read this story and I apologise for it in advance.

We find out that Anderson has been a victim of parental abuse and that she came to the Judges attention when she made a doll of her father and killed him through vodun techniques. It’s a skillfully written story with the writers obviously sensitive to the fact that some readers may have faced this situation in reality. The Judges have blocked Anderson’s memory of this event and she must go back into her childhood mentally and explain to her younger self that she was not at fault, she is not the cause of the's a sincerely important moment and in some ways transcends the other stories in this volume.
Stunning David Roach art from Engram

Included in this volume is another hard hitting story - one that deals with suicide and the loss dealt with those left behind. Corrie who is established as Anderson's best friend is a empath, she feels the pain of the world around her deeply. I wonder if that is a metaphor for's an incredibly moving story, where she touches the last of the Giant Whales as their species dies out.  With too much pain and loss in her life she makes a conscious decision to end her life.

Mick Austin's illustrates Alan Grant's moving "Leviathan's Farewell"

The theme of the story, Suicide, is not seen as cowardly way out for this character, but rather the logical follow on from a moment of acceptance that she can no longer live in this world.  It's not the usual take on a difficult subject.  Like many others I have been touched personally by this issue having a friend who made a similar decision, for me it’s a fantastically written and deeply moving piece and one of the finest stories in an excellent collection.

Thanks for reading this review folks

Anderson The PSI Files vol 1 can be purchased directly from Rebellion here.

Thursday, 20 July 2017

SLAINE: Warriors Dawn

 In our first real posting, Chris McAuley,  a relative newcomer to 2000 AD takes a fresh look at an old favourite.


Mike McMahon cover to the Warrior's Dawn collection
2000AD has played host to many characters over the last forty years, most of them have been influenced by various strands of sci-fi – but there was one individual – one narrative which was different and he opened up the way for fantasy to be a popular concept in the publication. 

Slaine was a mixture of homage to Robert E Howard’s Conan Series and the Celtic mythologies surrounding Cuchulainn, who himself was a figure based in universal myth, his stories bearing a striking resemblance to Hercules and a legendary figure in Persian mythology Rostam.

It was on this reoccurring pattern of stories that Pat Mills and Angela Kincaid based a compelling and brutal series of stories which now resemble an epic of Wagnerian proportions with protagonists with rich backstories and memorable antagonists who defy space and time to fight our hero in repeated stages of conflict. But where did it all begin?

It begins in the heat of Battle with Slaine, his back to the reader, readying his axe against a slavering giant dinosaur-like reptilian beast, a beast called a Time Monster. Immediately we are invested in the following panels which show how the barbarian defeats the beast – not by utilising his axe but by insight and ingenuity. He does so not to protect his village, not for sport or to test his strength in battle – but for money.

We are introduced to Ukko, a dwarf who has a lust for life, seen by most as loathsome, but I see him as a bon vivant, a character who has large appetites for money, women and beer! Over the course of the story, Slaine falls in love with Niamh, who is betrothed to the tribal King, this romantic interlude is cut short and Slaine is banished to wander the lands of Tir Na Nog to find his fortune amongst the witchkings and monsters which lurk there.

It is here that Slaine encounters a woman who is to become is greatest reoccurring enemy in the series, there’s battles with Sky Pirates and it’s an incredibly fun and enjoyable read. The artwork in this collection is illustrated by three artists, all unique in style and capturing different emphasis in the character and his environment. My favourite is Mike McMahon’s take, drawn in a fast paced style but incredibly detailed and it’s worth mentioning that it’s here we get to see the fascinating and ground breaking work of Angela Kincaid who created the character before handing on the baton of her work to the subsequent other artists.

Angela Kincaid's, credited as A Mills, splash page to the first Slaine story
It’s Kincaid’s striking artwork which shapes the character and imprints key themes in the readers consciousness and that is, I believe what makes Slaine such an enduring character.

Before finishing this review, it’s important to pay tribute to an element of the story which has been meticulously researched from Celtic myth.  It is here, where Pat Mills has outdone himself – famous for his passion for examining his subject matter, Pat brings parts of Celtic historical myth to life.
Slaine has one super power (and by that please don’t mistake him for being a ‘super hero’) he has the ability to ‘Warp Spasm’, this is the ability to distort his body into a variety of monstrous and disgusting shapes during the heat of battle.

This comes from the body-distorting properties described in the Riastrad of Cuchulainn and the term Warp Spasm comes from a translation of a legendary Irish tale, “The Cattle Raid of Cooley” otherwise known as “The Tain”, by Thomas Kinsella.

The collection, under the Title of Slaine: Warriors Dawn, is available in Amazon and at Rebellion publishing’s website. This is a truly memorable, enjoyable and fascinating series of stories which you will read greedily and not put down until it is finished. It is also immensely re-readable and will give you much pleasure long after it is initially placed on your bookshelf.

Warriors Dawn together with other Slaine collections are available direct from Rebellion or from your local comic shop.

Wednesday, 19 July 2017

Welcome to Sector 13

Welcome to the first post on Sector 13, a new Blog put together by the members of the Belfast based collection of 2000AD fans, ‘Sector House 13: The Pitcrew’.  The group, who meet on a monthly basis in the Parlour Bar in Belfast, has grown over the past year into as strong and active a group of comics fans as you’ll find anywhere.

Cover of the Ultra-Rare First Print of Sector 13. 
We recently began publication of our own non-profit fanzine, also called ‘Sector 13’, featuring strips inspired by the characters and stories from more than forty years of 2000AD.  The first issue, which went on sale at the Enniskillen Comics festival on the first weekend in May this year, provided a showcase for local writers and artists at an event which included as its guests some of the most important creators in the history of The World’s Greatest Comic.
A unique photo-strip, allowed us to involve the cosplayers in our group in a story which showed their fantastic costumes in a totally new way.   

Members stepped forward to help out with organisation, distribution and the technical preparation of our publication for printing.  

And that, in a nutshell, is the philosophy behind Sector House 13.  Our aim is to be a group of people who work together to achieve something, we want to involve as many members of the group as possible in using their individual talents to provide a medium to publish and publicise the great work they are capable of.

Sector 13, the Blog, is our next step.  Here we will feature reviews, articles and photographs from some of our members who do not write or draw comics but who have something to say.   In general, posts will revolve around 2000AD and related comics but we will also carry announcements of projects our members are involved in or achievements they may make make.

You can find more details of the Group on our Facebook page and if you have any ideas for reviews or articles for the blog then please contact us via the editorial e-mail address