Previewing The ‘SMASH!’ Special: Weird Brit Heroes Make This Very Special!
by Richard Bruton
One of the greatest things about the Treasury of British Comics Specials we’ve been getting from Rebellion for the last few years has been the chance to revel in the sheer weirdness of classic Brit comic characters. And the SMASH! Special is chock full of some wonderfully weird wonders indeed…
A megalomaniac criminal turned sometime hero, a hero whose power comes from a watch, the ‘missing link’ of evolution transformed into a superhuman, an invisible man with a very visible steel hand, a robotic giant ape, a fat, old, bald master of the occult, an investigator with unstoppable blue rays bursting from his eyes, and an eccentric/insane puppet master … this really is a classic line up of the weirdest and wackiest of Brit comic characters.
But it’s also rather bloody brilliant to see them all back… Steel Claw, The Spider, House of Dolmann, Mytek the Mighty and more await you inside the latest Smashing Special from the Treasury!
Read on for a little more in-depth look at the best in here and a full preview…
The opener, with Rob Williams and John McCrea bringing The Spider back, is absolutely the best of a strong bunch, with Williams and McCrea giving it their all here to capture the absolute genius of the King of Criminals. All the arrogance and vanity, all the megalomaniacal brilliance of the character is right here.
But when we rejoin his tale, The Spider hasn’t been seen for years, it’s suspected he’s either retired or dead. So when the Crime-Lords Incorporated threaten to release every super-villain held on the secure facility known as The Island, it’s time for The Spider to return… although as you’d expect from him, things are never what they seem.
The only bad thing about this particular strip? It’s not long enough, it leaves us with a cliffhanger… and it’s going to be a while before, hopefully, Williams and McCrea return with more.
A couple of the tales, Thunderbolt The Avenger, Johnny Future, are a little too straight for their own good, a little too woody in the telling, albeit with decent art, but they’re minor blips in a special full of very special strips.
Case in point, the big-name pairing of writer/comedian Charlie Higson and The Walking Dead artist Charlie Adlard on the wonderfully tongue in cheek return of The Steel Claw.
The over-the-top nature of this really suits this tale of a man who was unfortunate enough to have not one but two lab accidents, first losing a hand, the second turning him invisible with only his new steel claw the only thing that remains visible. So, of course, he’s recruited to be a spy by British Intelligence.
And Higson has approached it with a definite sense of the ridiculousness of the strip’s origins, yet still manages to write something that’s fun AND thrilling, quite a thing. As this Bond-esque spy tracks down the bad guys, only to find himself in the midst of a dastardly alliance between seven crime organisations, including F.E.A.R. (Federation for Extortion Assassination and Rebellion), P.H.O.B.I.A. (Partnership of Hatred, Obstruction, Brutality, Intimidation and Alarm), and my absolute favourite…C.R.A.Z.E.D. (Committee for Resistance, Attack, Zero Hours Employment Contracts & Dread). Next thing we know, Steel Claw is diving down to the Millenium Dome where the Queen and assorted dignitaries are settling down to watch Mick Hucknall perform.
It’s a ridiculous strip, yet it’s one that works so well. Where the clunkiness of the dialogue in Thunderbolt just felt a little leaden, here in Steel Claw Higson writes that clunky dialogue so well to make it a part and parcel of the enjoyment of the strip itself.
For a complete change of pace, Mytek the Mighty goes into the take the silly and do it straight, which is why you get the Pacific Rim-esque retelling of the giant robotic ape tale. Here, like The Spider, it’s another that is a mere first chapter and, just as with The Spider, is one I really want to see more of.
Cursitor Doom and Jason Hyde‘s tale, King for a Day, is a neat done in one thing, the best of the simpler/sampler tales in here, as one investigator of the strange heads to the castle of another to foil a nefarious plot. (As if there’d be any other in a strip such as this.)
And ending this very special Special, we have Simon Furman and Chris Weston delivering the insanity that is the House of Dolmann – where the ventriloquist puppet maker sends his talking puppets are sent to fight crime – and we’re never entirely sure whether those puppets are sentient or it’s merely Dolmann having some sort of multiple personality breakdown.
Furman takes the frankly creepy concept and investigates it, having Dolmann and his freaky lil’ ‘children’ solving a mystery only to lead to another ending that’s prime for another adventure in a thoroughly fun ending.
Again, the artistic stylings through this SMASH! Special are wonderfully diverse. From the kinetic beauty of John McCrea‘s Spider, to the painterly loose linework of Anand Radhakrishnan‘s Mytek, the striking angular look of the Doom/Hyde occult drama from Andreas Butzbach, through to the beautifully detailed work of Chris Weston… there’s so much to enjoy in here.
The SMASH! Special really is one of the best Specials we’ve seen from the Treasury of British Comics. There’s plenty to love here, giving new life to the classics yet treating them all with plenty of respect. If only I could tell you that we’ll be seeing more of the best of these strips in a months’ time… but sadly I can’t. We’re probably going to have to wait another 12 months to see the continuations of the brilliance on show in The Spider, Steel Claw, Mytek The Mighty, and House of Dolmann.
But for now… trust me, this is one Special that truly deserves the name… The SMASH! Special is today, 27 May – Get it from the 2000 AD Webstore or your local comic shop!
Now… how about previews of all the strips. You’re very welcome.
THE SPIDER – WHERE IS THE SPIDER? – Rob Williams and John McCrea, colours by Mike Spicer, letters by Simon Bowland, created by Ted Cowan and Reg Bunn
THUNDERBOLT THE AVENGER – Helen O’Hara and Valentina Pinti, colours by Jim Boswell, letters by Ozvaldo Sanchez, created by Eric Dadswell
JOHNNY FUTURE! – TIMEOUT – Anita Break and Tom Raney, colours by Gary Caldwell, letters by SG, created by Alf Wallace and Luis Bermejo
THE STEEL CLAW – THE TWO DOMES – Charlie Higson and Charlie Adlard, letters by Simon Bowland, created by Ken Bulmer, Sid Bicknell, Ken Mennell, Jack Le Grand, Jesus Blasco
MYTEK THE MIGHTY – Suyi Davies Okungbowa, Anand Radhakrishnan, co-colourist Deeganto Joardar, letters by SG, created by Tom Tully and Bill Lacey
CURSITOR DOOM & JASON HYDE – KING FOR A DAY – Maura McHugh and Andreas Butzbach, letters by A. Cult. Cursitor Doom created by Ken Mennell and Eric Bradbury, Jason Hyde created by Barrington J. Bailey and Eric Bradbury
HOUSE OF DOLLMAN – TO CATCH A THIEF – Simon Furman and Chris Weston, letters by Jim Campbell, created by Tom Tully and Eric Bradbury