The latest classic British comic brand to get the Rebellion revival treatment is Action with Action 2020. The infamous series from the 1970s which saw Pat Mills and John Wagner cut their teeth in the industry and cause controversy along the way. But will this new version still be able provide the thrills and spills that it’s legacy requires.
Publisher: Rebellion/British Comics Treasury
Price: £4.99 from shop.2000ad.com
Action 2020 is an interesting mix of anthology and nostalgia trip. It’s very much a homage to the classic comic collection of the past, yet it has a line up of very contemporary creators including 2000 AD heavy hitters like Henry Flint (Judge Dredd) and Garth Ennis (Preacher) along with indie superstars like Ram V (These Savage Shores). It features a mix of classic characters from back in the day brought to life in new adventures by these new creators, – such as Hook Jaw, Hellman, Dredger and Kids Rule OK, along with an absolutely insane new series from Flint called Hell Machine – which definitely lives up to it’s title!
The 5 stories cover off the main genre bases of sci-fi, horror and action, but only really Hell Machine stands out from the crowd as something new and unique. Kids Rule OK is an interesting piece of Mad Max style dystopian sci-fi about a future world ravaged by disease (all very prescient). However it feels very much like a pre-amble to a larger series. We had high hopes for this considering Ram’s pedigree on books like These Savage Shores and Paradiso, but this one doesn’t really get out of first gear and although it is a nice slice of world building doesn’t really reveal much about the concept of the series beyond a nice final page..
The second story sees Garth Ennis tell the story of a family being rescued by German tank commander in Hellman. It’s a really interesting story, as we cannot remember the last time we read a war comic. As you would except with a writer of Ennis’ calibre it is a very well thought-out story and juxtaposes the heroics of Hellman with the horrors of war. Ennis does this really well via a young brother and sister who are debating the various merits of Hellman’s antics while he fixes their car. It’s a a great example of how a war comic can cover both sides of the story, and artist Mike Dorey brings a classic line heavy black and white style to it akin to Battle or Commando. However at this point we found ourselves wondering who this book is aimed at? Are younger audiences interested in this kind of story. Or is Action 2020 just aimed at the older nostalgia crowd? If it’s the latter they will lap it up, but if it’s the former is a World War 2 story too far removed from their consciousness?
One story that cannot be questioned is Henry Flint’s Hell Machine. Whats starts off as a fairly outrageous future sci-fi story about a young misfit called Tase, soon develops into a nightmarish horror story that sees her attempting to evade various gruesome methods of murder inside a giant death machine, before encountering the leader of the resistance who is trying to literally dismantle this nightmarish world. We’re trying not to give too much away here as Hell Machine is absolutely harrowing and truly one of a kind. It has the kind of anarchic energy and punk spirit of Tank Girl or Marshal Law, but the inventive deaths and gore of the Saw franchise. It’s an utterly horrific, yet totally compelling read and feels the most ambitious and unconventional of the 5 stories. While the rest of the stories feel like a nice trip down memory lane, this really makes Action 2020 feel much more current and a better read as a result!
The series is rounded off with Dredger – a slice of gritty spy/crime story, and Hook Jaw – about a giant killer shark. We really enjoyed the Hook Jaw reboot from a couple of years ago, but a bit like Kids Rule OK, this feels more like a pre-amble to a longer series. Told without words it is all about setting up a fight between Hook Jaw and a powerful polar bear, which is an amazing concept, and looks absolutely mind blowing thanks to an incredible final page. It’s just a shame this is another story which stops just as it gets going!
Overall Action 2020 is a really solid anthology that should definitely appeal to those comics fans who remember the original or those who are harking after something more dangerous than 2000 AD. As a one shot, it suffers from having a few too many stories which feel like they are building towards something more long term. However, if this is the first issue of a new semi-regular series then it’s a great start and a fitting follow up to a comic with such a notorious reputation!