Category Archives: Treasury of British Comics

Rebellion Specials 2020 – Part 4: Battle / Misty & Scream

The next two specials I’m looking at are Battle of Britain Special and Misty & Scream. Firstly the Battle special is a sizeable book at 100 pages, and it is packed with great art and stories, that I appreciate on an objective level. On a more personal preference there are other specials that I would have preferred to get the 100 page treatment. While I can enjoy the occasional war story, my interests aren’t in having a whole book of them, if I hadn’t purchased the specials bundle, I probably wouldn’t have picked it up. This is still an impressive book with 10 new stories and 3 reprints.  The Highlights for me were: Face of the Enemy, Destroyer, Rat Pack. I also welcomed some light relief with The Young Cockney Commandos with art by Tom Paterson and on the opposite side I can appreciate the message of War Child, (although taking the whole book as a whole it does lead to some mixed messaging), Of the reprints Double Hero is nice addition to highlight some Ian Kennedy work which is always welcome.

Face of the Enemy (Writer: Alan Grant, Art: Davide Fabbri, Colours: Domenico Neziti) is my favourite as an old man visits a school, to tell the class  his experience as a young boy seeing planes fighting overhead during the Battle of Britain. When a German plane is shot down he runs to it despite having heard what “monsters” the Germans were, what he finds is a dying German man wishing for his family. It has nice art, with some impressive fighting scenes and I do like a story that shows there are humans on both sides of war. Destroyer (Writer; Rob Williams, Art: PJ Holden)  a story narrated by a young seaman, Joe Owen, about his time on the ship that had earned the name “jinxtown”, but despitethe nickname the ship would still have an important role to play in the war.  Rat Pack – The Tough Way (Writer: Garth Ennis, Art: Keith Burns) has a touch of humour, as the team make fun of the General they just rescued, the mission is recounted at a complaints hearing.

Misty & Scream is definitely more to my interest and that we are getting extra Misty content this year is a definite bonus. There are 6 stories here, it gets off to a strong start with Thief of Senses (Writer: Maura McHugh, Art: Robin Henley),  set in Victorian London where a family fear something that stalks in the night. It’s a very creepy story, and use of dark colours sets up a good atmosphere. I also enjoyed The Aegis (Writer: Kristyna Baczynski, Art: Mary Safro) a more modern story focused on rivalry within a school play. The title of the play Medusa: The Musical, foretelling the characters’ fates. Safro’s art reminds me of Darwyn Cooke, with it’s simple cartoon like style, and works great with this story. Bumps in the Night (Writer: Olivia Hicks, Art: John Lucas) is a creepy clown story, not my favourite in the book, but  sure to give anyone with a clown phobia some nightmares!

The second half of the book are all returning stories, if there is supposed to be a distinctive split  in the layout, these would be deemed the Scream! stories and as Misty takes first place in the title this year it would make sense for her stories to come first. We have the return of Black Beth (Writer: Alec Worley, Art: DaNi) , which is my favourite art in the book, just gorgeous work by DaNi. Then there is Return of Black Max (Writer: Kek-W, Art: Simon Coleby) probably bottom of my list (guess someone has to be), not too bad a story but felt I probably should have reread the previous installment first.  Which can be problem with continuing stories in these specials being so far apart. Although I somehow didn’t have that issue with the aforementioned Black Beth or with The Dracula File (Writer: Cavan Scott, Art: Vincenzo Riccardi) which felt it stood more on it’s own without knowing the background. It is a satisfying conclusion to the original 1970s story, and much better than the first revival (in the 2017 special). Even with the story concluded I would say there is still room to go back and fill in the gaps, if they so wished but left as is, it does its job of showing final fates of Dracula and  Stakis.

If it’s similar to this content I look forward to more Misty stories later this year!

 

Rebellion Specials 2020 – Part 3: Tammy & Jinty

As this site is about girls comics clearly Tammy & Jinty special is one I’ve been eagerly awaiting. I was pleased with last year’s issue and this year takes a different approach but is still a joy to read.

This  year there are just 2 new complete stories and  1 reprint of the first episode of Ping-Pong Paula (compared to last year’s 9 short stories). This approach certainly has the advantage of giving the stories more time to breathe, although I was little disappointed not to see some returns from last year like Justice of Justine or Bella of the Bar. Personal preference would maybe have split the difference and have 3-4 new stories, so could still have longer stories but bit more variety. Still the stories here are a great read and I wouldn’t be opposed to seeing more retro strips occasionally too. Starting off we have Boarding School (by Rachael Smith and Yishan Li) where a girl, Tabatha and her brother, Richard are the only students at a mysterious boarding school with 4 governesses. While they all fawn over Richard, Tabatha is pretty much ignored, because of this while exploring she meets a girl from outside the school and after talking with her, Tabatha begins to question the motives of the governesses and what are they hiding. I won’t give too much away, but this was an intriguing mystery story, with strong sibling bond and a good villain.

In Cat Girl Returns (by Ramzee and Elkys Nova) we meet the original Cat Girl, Cathy, all grown up and still tracking down bad guys though now as police officer, not as a costumed hero. Meanwhile her daughter Claire is trying to find a costume for a party and comes across her mother’s old cat girl outfit. While at the party Claire begins to notice some strange things, like she now has enhanced senses, and when a social media star gets taken by some criminal she is on hand to help. I like that we get to see Cathy work her case and how it connects to Claire’s heroics. While I’ve liked Rebellions update on characters, it was very fun to see continuation of the Cat Girl story rather than a straightforward reboot. DCT digital Spellbound reprint (which unfortunately was only available for short period before being pulled) had a similar idea where after reprint of  I Don’t want to Be a Witch” there was a short story focusing on Celia’s daughter. It is nice to see these legacy characters as we get a new updated character but also get to see what the older character grew up to become. It probably wouldn’t work for every story but it fits Cat Girl just right.

The other story we get is the first episode of Ping-Pong Paula,this comes after an interview with Alison Fitt (nee Christie) and is fitting example of her work. I wonder if the story is set for a reprint, which would be another reason to print the first episode here to entice readers in, I would be happy to see a volume of this. The other feature we get is a piece on Giorgio Giorgetti, I had not realised he’d died young, so it was nice to read his son’s memories of his fathers work.

An excellent addition to Rebellion’s specials collection and I must also mention a gorgeous cover by Marguerite Sauvage.

Rebellion Specials 2020 – Part 2

On to the next set of Rebellion specials that I have received.

Originally set to coincide with the European Championships,  Roy of the Rovers Summer Special  made a few changes to better reflect the times we are living in.  The character of Roy Race has a long history, but even this new version has been around for a while. So unlike some of the other specials it has a well-established young fan-base and plenty of books  already available. So this will appeal to those fans and for those just taking a dip-in it may encourage them to check out the other books. For me I am familiar with Roy of the Rovers but I’ve only read Rocky (Roy’s sister) story from last year’s Tammy & Jinty. Here this comic though clearly in production before Covid-19 crisis it does reference the pandemic in the first story Roy and his friend talk briefly about how quiet the summer was with the lockdown, while I appreciate the effort it does then just make everyone standing so close together after that a bit glaring! More successful is the Rocky text story (By Tom Palmer) where she deals with being confined to home, clashing with her brother, worries over her future, not being able to complete her GCSE’s and fear for her father’s vulnerable position due to his pre-existing condition. All well handled and I really enjoyed this story.

To go back briefly to the first story, after they get over mentioning the pandemic, it goes onto the team’s new chair person setting up a tournament with teams around Europe, and Roy also wondering why one of his teammates is MIA. It is a solid story, you can tell there is a lot of history with these characters but it mostly does well enough as a stand alone story. Another story Old School brings back some old characters for a veteran super league, it is probably the story that will appeal to older nostalgic fans the most (Rob Williams writes both stories, with Elkys Nova art in first story and David Sque art in the second). Rounding off the special is some Ken Reid football humour strips, and features of Q&A’s with creators and original Roy Race’s England career explained. Football isn’t something that I rush to see, but I can see how this character’s world has been so successful and it is a well put together special, with stories that can appreciated even not being a football fan.

While not part of the Treasury Line, the next special included is the 2000AD Sci-Fi special this celebrates 20 years since Rebellion took over the rights to 2000AD. I haven’t followed 2000AD regularly for some years but it is nice to catch up with these characters. This is the biggest special at 100 pages and is a mix of reprints (Terror Tales, Sinister Dexter, Nikolai Dante, Dreams of Deadworld, Judge Dredd – Leaving Rowdy) and new stories (Judge Dredd- The Immigrant, Kingdom, Storm Warning, The Red Seas). While these are standalone stories, some work best if you are familiar with the characters. Most of my favourites were the reprints, clearly these were good picks to highlight the best of 2000AD. In Nikolai Dante (Script: Robbie Morrison, art: Simon Fraser) the title character, has a fever dream and finds he has lost his Weapons Crest, it is a lot more effective for me as I already like the character from previous stories that I have read. Terror Tales – Scene of the Crime (Script: Al Ewing, art: Simon Fraser) is a great one-off story in which two detective investigate a murder where strange symbols were left on the wall, one detective discovers the symbols have appeared in other murders dating back to a least the 1950s. Dreams of Deadworld (script Kek-W, art: Dave Kendall) is a very dark and creepy tale of the dark judge, Fear. Of the newer stories the highlight was Judge Dredd – The Immigrant as Dredd interviews Zombo, it was very amusing. I also appreciated the interview with CEO Jason Kingsley, which again shows the enthusiasm behind these comics and gives some insight into how Rebellion has come to dominate the British comic scene.

Another 2000AD related comic that was not part of the Specials bundle but I think is worth a mention here is Judge Dredd Megazine #421 which I picked up separately. I won’t go into all the stories here, just the reason I picked this up was to get the last part of The Vigilant saga (three Simon’s worked on this! script: Simon Furman, art: Simon Coleby, letters: Simon Bowland, colours: Len O’Grady) . This was an ambitious project, having a new super-team comprised  of modern versions of old characters like Leopard from Lime Street, Thunderbolt, Doctor Sin and others. While I’ve enjoyed the story I think having the story so spaced out and having too many characters and  lots of busy action made it suffer (particularly in the first full issue).  I feel they were actually hitting their stride more and the conclusion is satisfying enough. Also effective is Doctor Sin, giving a brief rundown of team while pondering the motives of one of them being a traitor, as it quickly lets those unfamiliar know who these people are. It was an interesting project I feel they would have done better with a smaller team at first and then introduce more characters, but I will enjoy re-reading the saga and catching things I may not ave noticed first time around. More relevant to the treasury line is the megazine comes with Vigilant Origins book which has appearances of characters as the first appeared, we get stories about the original Doctor Sin, the origin of Leopard from Lime Street, Death Wish, Steel Commando  and we also see stories of the villains; Von Hoffman’s Invasion and Dr Mesmer’s Revenge. This was enjoyable glance at what made this characters popular when they first appeared (and I’m sure will encourage people to checkout the reprinted volumes available).

Next  special released will be Tammy & Jinty, which surprising no-one I’m sure is the one I’m most excited for.

Rebellion Specials 2020 – Part 1

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.