Rebellion’s Treasury of British Comics line has a whole line of specials this year, along with new titles like Action and Smash are returning favourites from previous years; Misty & Scream, Cor!!Buster and Tammy & Jinty. They are certainly getting more ambitious, though I do wonder if they are throwing a lot out just to see what will stick, so it will be interesting to see what specials return next year.
When they announced the 12 specials they would be releasing throughout the year, starting in March, there was definite must haves for me, but others that I may not have bothered with, if not for the special bundle subscription offer. I have so far received nearly half of the titles, which are a bit of a mixed bag (I’ll get into that more later!) but I am glad that I got subscription, as it has introduced me to new interesting characters and has certainly kept me entertained. Also the service by Rebellion is great, every month since March my new special has arrived right on time in my letterbox, which has been a real treat. If you are buying online I would recommend for any of their books to buy directly from their website. https://treasuryofbritishcomics.com/
The first special I received was Action 2020 which came with a smaller facsimile of the famously banned issue of Action from 23 October 1976. So this wasn’t the strongest starts for me personally. It’s not the type of stories that appeal to me, even the 1970s issue, while I can see its merits, it wouldn’t be something I want to read more of (except perhaps The Probationer a story with a protagonist wrongly accused of crime, who is looking after his disabled mother and also has to deal with being blackmailed, which wouldn’t be out of place in a girls’ comic!). In the new Action 2020, there are 5 stories; Kids Rule O.K., Hellman, Hook Jaw and Dredger (which all appear in the older issue too) and a new story Hell Machine. As I only have vague knowledge of some of these characters, I came into it with no nostalgia influence (nostalgia being double edged sword sometimes with these titles). So while I’ve seen criticisms elsewhere, my favourite story here was Hookjaw. The whole lead up is to have vicious shark Hookjaw face off against polar bear Shako (though we do not see how that battle ends), comics are a visual medium but the visual and words compliment each other, so it is hard to tell a story with no dialogue. That is why I am impressed with this silent 7 page strip which capture everything we need to know with thrilling art by Dan Lish. Hell Machine (Script & Art: Henry Flint, Art: Jake lynch, Letters: Simon Boland) is the other story that worked best for me, at 15 pages it’s the longest story and therefore has the advantage of doing more world building. While this type of dystopian future story is not groundbreaking, it does follow the tropes well taking fears from present and taking it to the extreme (e.g. the system being rigged so poor people can never escape debt). So while not my favourite special it still had a few stories I enjoyed.
The next special was quite the opposite of the previous Cor!!Buster returning from last year, is a jam packed humour comic with 15 strips. I enjoyed last years special and overall this one is stronger still. There are 9 stories that get a 2nd round including Ivor Lott and Tony Broke and Faceache which both have improved since last year. Some highlights for me this year, “new” strips Buster and Delbert (script: John Freeman,art: Lew Stringer & letters: Leila Jess) which felt like a classic Buster story and was jam packed with character cameos. Then Birdman and Chicken (script: Keith Richardson, art: Edward Whatley, letters: Ward West) doing a perfect Batman parody with arch nemesis The Giggler, that had me chuckling aloud. Daisy Jones Locket (script: Olivia Hicks, art: Shelli Paroline & Braden Lamb, Letters: Amber Cee) , maybe isn’t the strongest story in the issue, but I just loved the art. Ivor Lott & Tony Broke with Milly O’Naire & Penny Less, are still favourite characters of mine and like I mentioned this strip improved on last years, so I enjoyed Ivor and Milly’s attempt to bring Jurassic Park to the mansion and of course it going wrong! While these were my highlights, I really enjoyed every one of these strips and l look forward to it presumably returning next year.
Next was the Smash! special like Action I had little knowledge of any of these characters, but this was far more appealing to me. This British superhero comic was a lot of fun, I noted its printing size and style was in line with American style comics, which I again commend Rebellion for not making a one size fits all when putting together these specials, just shows the extra thought that goes into producing them. Like Cor! Buster I found something to enjoy in every one of these strips and a definite plus was before each story was a one page background summary of the hero. Here we get 7 stories The Spider, Thunderbolt the Avenger, Johnny Future, The Steel Claw, Mytak the Mighty, Cursitor Doom Jason Hyde and The House of Dolmann. If I had to pick a favourite it would be The House of Dolmann (story: Simon Furman, art: Chris Weston, letters: Jim Campbell), in the story we see a now aged Dolmann, he is enlisted to help catch a doll thief with the help of his mechanical puppets. He uses ventriloquism to give the varied puppets personalities, though the strip brings up some questions when Dolmann is knocked unconscious and his puppets still talk! The Steel Claw (story: Charlie Higson, art: Charlie Adlard, letters: Simon Bowland) is a bizarre concept where secret agent Crandell, can turn invisible except for his prosthetic steel claw, the strip has a lot of fun with the villains overuse of acronyms for their organisations! Thunderbolt the Avenger (story: Helen O’Hara, art: Valentina Pinti, colours: Jim Boswell, Letters: Ozvaldo Sanchez), this incarnation Mary Lansden I was familiar with from The Vigilant, so I quite liked seeing her origin her and how she got the powerful wristwatch from her predecessor. The Spider (story: Rob Williams, art: John McCrea, letters: Simon Bowland) I also found interesting as he has played both hero and super villain, the mystery in this strip is where has he been since helping British Intelligence lock away supervillains.
So a quarter way through and overall a positive start to these specials.