Tuesday, 20 June 2017

Zenith Phase 4 (2000AD #791-808)

"The real New Age starts here..." - David Cambridge

Time for the final part of the story of Zenith.  This collection always had a bit of a reputation seeing as how it never got a trade paperback release until this one a couple of years back, and progs that told the story could fetch quite a high price.  The story wraps up the tale of Zenith, a pop star and cocky young prick of a British superhero who was the son of a pair of sixties superheroes created by a man called Michael Peyne.  After creating a super soldier for World War 2 to combat Germany's one who was playing host to a Lovecraftian entity called the a Lloigor which ended up being nuked, he made a group that ended up rebelling and calling themselves "Cloud Nine".  Zenith's parents were killed not long after he was born, while the rest disappeared, leaving only three, which included Peter "Mandala" St.John, now Tory Prime Minister.  Ruby "Voltage" Fox a journalist and Siadwel "Red Dragon" Rhys a sad drunk who was killed when the four of them took on the Lloigor again in Phase 1.  After Phase 2 saw Zenith take on a meglomaniac, meet his parents maker, and have a threesome with two of Peyne's more recent experiments, we came to Phase 3.  This was a multiversal epic once again taking on the Lloigor as heroes from many universes banded together to defeat them and is probably one of my very favourite stories to run in 2000AD.  On the way, they pick up a robotic hero called Archie who returns to Zenith's universe.  A thread running through all these volumes was a mysterious plan Cloud Nine keep referring to as the missing ones also return to Zenith's reality.  In this book we'll finally see what that plan was and what it meant for the whole of humanity. Words by Grant Morrison, pictures by Steve Yeowell.

We begin with Peyne writing a book called "Seizing The Fire", a book that will remain unpublished because he is the only human left in the world.  He supposes that writing it is a way to "somehow wrest order from this present chaos".  Each day he rises in darkness, he dresses, he misses music, "they" have music but it is scarcely recognisable as such. "That dreadful unending scream: that I think, is their music".

Peyne: "What have I done?  That is the question I must now answer.  I have loosed the Tygers upon the world.  I have swept away the old order.  I have cast down the towers of the cities of men.  And laid the foundation stones of the New Jerusalem".

He conteplates the huge black sun that is now in the sky.  Then Ruby, now a being of pure energy comes to visit him. She exhorts him to turn around, he says the last time he looked he was sick for a week.  But he turns anyway and is OK.  Ruby asks why he is working on a book. Peyne says it keeps him busy, organises thoughts.  Ruby says they'll be completely abolishing his past, "you're writing on the wind Michael".
Michael Peyne, last human alive.
She tells him he's getting younger, their gift to him for the part he played and she disintergrates his cane.  This upsets Peyne as it's another link with the world that was now gone.   She knew he would feel like that, his thoughts are as transparent as glass to them, paradoxically the lack of privacy is its own brand of freedom.

Peyne goes for a walk and sees they've erected a new building, a featureless cube, "to them this bloody eyesore must appear beautiful".  Every day he walks down the transformed streets and it seems the world has always been this way. 

Peyne: "It must be only a year or two since they killed Zenith and Peter St. John, but it feels like forever".

Each day the city is restructured it's map "redrawn by restless hands".  The citizens have hands for faces now and walk but go nowhere.   Every so often one of the Lloigor pass overhead and they applaud, "otherwise they remain silent".

Peyne misses conversation, the Lloigor speak to him of course but they are so beyond the merely human he feels like a child.  He walks all day but whatever direction he goes in he finds himself back home.  His house is one of the few constants in the world.  He rises and walks and works and grows younger day by day.  So in the time that remains he will tell the story of the end of the world that was.

He ponders the aphorism "be careful what you wish for, it may come true" but for him it did come true and summarises his whole lifes achievement.

Peyne: "I wished for a world uncontaminated by the greed and brutality of man.  I wished for a world that was the perfect playground of superhuman minds. And see!  It has all come to pass! And here I stand in this dreadful city of endless night. The last man.  The last human being, his wishes fulfilled.  Watching a black sunset."

We then flashback to July, 1992 so we can find out how things have ended up the way they have. Zenith on the TV being interviewed by Melvyn Bragg on the South Bank Show about his new musical direction, saying it was important to express himself. 
|Zenith and manager Eddie.
We then pull back to see Zenith is watching the interview on TV in the company of his manager Eddie.  He's feeling pretty pleased, his latest single is at number one as is his album. His new album is a hardcore mix of dance rhythms, psychedelic guitars and passionate lyrics, showing a maturity that has surprised Zenith's critics.  Zenith then turns the TV off.

They turn over to another channel as one of the superhumans, David "Lux" Cambridge is giving a speech about the problems fascing the world today, they are offering something called "The Labours of Hercules" to give humanity a chance "to drag itself out of the evolutionary mud" as helped by them of the "Horus Project".  Zenith dismisses it as "once a hippie, always a hippie" and goes out.
PM Peter St. John contemplates the Chimera.
We cut to him in the office of Prime Minister Peter St. John (I think we can assume Maggie fell in 1990 same as reality but Peter won the leadership election), Peter is sitting cross legged contemplating a pyramid.  Zenith asks him if this Horus programme is part of the mysterious plan.  Peter ignores his question and asks him if he really saw the "Chimera" transform into the pyramid in front of him.  Zenith says "it wasn't as good as a Kylie video".

Peter: "A whole tiny universe.  A microcosm which duplicates our own, scaled-down infintesimally.  Did I tell you I made contact with Chimera?  I think we may be able to use it but there are risks involved. That's why I've asked you here Zenith".

Zenith asks him what he plans to do with Lux and Spook and the rest of that lot.  Peter says he's invited them over for a chat and asks him to hide the pyramid in his desk.   Lux, Ruby and Spook arrive, Peter is surprised they used the door, "they've never shown that kind of courtesy before".  And he lets them in.

David says he doesn't want to waste time on small talk, "a new age is dawning" and Peter is wasting his time playing human power games.   They think it's time "to start playing God games".  They are offering Peter one last chance to join them.  Penny says he doesn't owe humanity anything, "why do you have to be so opposed to the plan?"

Peter says why don't they just call The Plan the Final Solution?  David says he can't believe Peter wants to stand in the way of evolution.

David: "We're not monsters, we're the next stage.  We can't afford to be dragged down into the mire by creatures whose time has come and gone."

Peter says he doesn't mind ascending but he doesn't want to kick the ladder away behind them.  Ruby then says she can sense some kind of power source and opens Peter's desk to find the Chimera.  Peter says it's nothing by an ornament and tells her to put it down.  She turns it into dust much to Zenith's horror.  Peter says they will stop them somehow, David says "you're welcome to try".
Ruby destroys the Chimera.
We return to Peyne and his book, he is younger now, his hair is growing back. He thinks his writing when he was older was very rigid, missing "obvious connections and possibilities".  He decides there is something to be said for being forced to grow younger.   He looks out across the mad rooftops and feels not guilt but pride... "God help me I feel pride".

He remembers very clearly sitting with Shockwave and Blaze watching David saying that politics will become obselete in their new world which will obliterate national boundaries.  It was the "last day of the world that was".  The girls change channel with their minds to Top of the Pops.  Performing tonight is "Yahoo Crew Plus Two Featuring MC Acid Archie".  As they sing he recalls how these jingles and tunes engraved themselves on his mind and "these silly poignant memories will die with me."

Suddenly Ruby appears on screen and starts singing and creating a light show.  Peyne finds himself regretting the loss of such vulgar music, "what would I give now for just five minutes of Top of the Pops". The DJ says something about Zenith and the two girls blast a single thought about the child.

Zenith backstage says Ruby can't sing to save her life.  Eddie his manager is fussing saying people are looking for a new revival and he thinks it'll be Punk next. Zenith picks up his guitar and goes to perform, meanwhile the two girls with Peyne have fetched a small child.  When Zenith appears on screen it points and says "Dad! Dad! Dad!"

Peyne: "I still cannot think of the child without shuddering.  If only I had known.  If I had even suspected what was to happen I would have killed the child. Or so I like to think."

We then cut to Washington DC, the President is asking if the superhumans can be killed.  He's told their Shadowmen killed to of them, "all we need is the element of surprise.  Just say the word." The President authorises the hit as Peyne thinks back as to what word it was that began the war, "I wonder what word opened the door to hell."
Trust the Americans to stick their oar in.
David is trying to convince another superhuman called Domino to be ready to play his part when the time comes.  Domino is a somewhat reluctant, David says it'll be hard enough dealing with Peter and Zenith without worrying about him as well.  He also tells Domino to wear more appropriate clothing when they talk to the press. Domino says he's a Punk, "they'll bury me a Punk".  David says that'll be sooner than he thinks, the humans are working to get rid of them, "we have to act now."  But Domino says there must be another way.

Outside Domino's building are the Shadowmen, they are told to go in through the limbic system, knock out the visuals then proceed into the autonomic nervous system as per training.  A man and woman then go inside the building, the man called Cameron is nervous.  The woman calls him a wimp. 

Domino is alone sorting his CDs when suddenly the Shadowmen attack his mind and render him blind.  He retaliates and blasts through the woman's defences and fries her body to a crisp.  Cameron warns Domino he's not alone, then David appears behind him and drops the charred remains of his colleagues who were out in the car, "just who did you think you were dealing with, you ridiculous little creature?"

Cameron fearfully blabs that he was just obeying orders and is working for the U.S. government.  David says he knows everything and the woman was right to call him a wimp, "are you very afraid now?" Cameron says he is and David squashes him in a wet splat.  Domino still can't see and pleads with David for help.  David takes his head and says "it's all working out beautifully" and crushes Domino's head.
David helps kickstart the war.
Peyne is now a young man, he has to deal with feeling randy again, plenty of old showers and inspirational texts.  He's finding what he's already written to be somewhat dry. But he keeps on with it.   He remembers back to the first images from Washington, they were shocking.  The city was levelled by the superhumans.  David tells the news that the U.S. government killed their friend Domino, "murdered by human ignorance and fear. We refuse to tolerate this or any further acts of aggression which the governments of the world may have planned.  As of today everything has changed".

They destroyed the Whitehouse, the Pentagon and the Fort Knox gold reserve, "within a very short time, the United States of America as a concept will only exist in the history books".

David: "We are now going to have to take more direct charge of human affairs.  You simply cannot be trusted. As of today we are assuming guardianship of the planet. That is our final judgement and we would ask that you refrain from any attempts to resist us.  You've seen what we can do."

Inside the House of Commons there is pandemonium with Peter the still centre.  The opposition leader demands to know which side he is on.  Peter brushes him off then we cut to the superhumans inside their base discussing how the President made it easy for them and now they should begin the next phase.  But in walk Peter, Zenith and Archie.  Peter says it's time to stop "before this situation goes entirely out of control".  Zenith also complains his records are being burned because of them.
Battle commences.
Peter asks David if they are going to start throwing buildings at each other.  David says they're not sadists, "we'll try and make this quick."  And a psychedelic dome of many colours springs up round the building as lights shine from David's eyes.

Peyne: "The end of the world had arrived.  Wearing a quite unexpected face".

We rejoin the now forty year old Peyne running through the ever-changing streets of London.  He thinks about how he later discovered the conflict took place in one room and took the form of an exchange of psychic energies between Peter St. John on one side and David Cambridge, Ruby Fox and Penelope Moon on the other.

Four people in one room, and the psychic fallout had ordinary people seeing fiery skies, apocalyptic clashes of angels, flying saucers and nightmarish bomber aircraft, "everyone saw his or her own vision of the end of the world." 

We join that battle, Zenith says it feels like being on dodgy E. Peter says they are in his hyperthalmus, he needs to increase his serotonin.  Zenith says it feels like it's been going on for years, Archie says it's actually been three point two-five seconds. Peter counter-attacks striking all three in their minds.  Then Archie declares "mind stuff dull.  Archie needs action".  Archie then rips the seating up and smashes it over Penelope's head.  Then he punches David in the head.  He starts trying to crush Ruby's head, but she fights back and blows his head clean off, putting him out of action.
Archie is taken out.
Outside now and London has been flattened.  Peter is siting trying to recover, another superhuman - DJ Chill attacks Zenith who sets him on fire.  David, with Ruby and Spook in their energy forms reappear.  Zenith desperately asks "why don't they just stop and leave us alone?"  Peter grabs him and pulls him through a hole in space. "He ran away" says David, "It doesn't matter.  It's all over now.  It's all ours".

Elsewhere Zenith asks Peter what he did.  Peter says he shoved them forwards in time or rather he shifted them in space and let time catch up while they were in suspension.  Zenith asks how much time has passed, and Peter says "weeks. Perhaps months.  I'm afraid it was rather a leap in the dark".  Then they look up and see the sun. It is a huge black circle, "oh no" says Zenith "what have they done? What have they done to the sun?" Peter can only recall a premonition he had:

Peter: "(I've been here before) Freezing. Things that used to be human drag themselves in the perpetual shadows, sobbing with shame.  A skyful of frozen cinders.  A child's doll driven mad by the horrors it has witnessed stares up at me.  What have they done?  What have they done to the world? I wish the sun would only rise.  And then I realise it has risen.  And the sun is black."

Zenith snaps him out of his reverie, he asks if the whole world is like this and Peter says it's probably safe to assume the worst.  We then return to Peyne and his book of the events, now he's reached his twenties.  Now he is backtracking and introducing himself back into the narrative again.
The Black Sun.
He remembers being in the bunker with Shockwave and Blaze and Peter turned up and showed him something... or did he imagine Peter's visit?  Then there was the war.  And then he was brought into the presence of the superhumans he oversaw the creation of forty-six years ago.  David tells him:

David: "We made it happen just the way you told us to when we were young.  The age of humanity is now a closed chapter in the history books.  Except there won't be any history books."

Peyne says he hopes they aren't ready to consign him to history, he has protection.  David says he was like a father to them, he doesn't need protection from them.

Then Shockwave, Blaze and their kid cross over to the side of the rest of the superhumans, leaving him feeling like "an abandoned pet.  I wanted to cry. The last man in a world no longer human... nothing can describe how it feels when one's heart dies."  David is holding Zenith's kid and says it's time they shared something with Peyne.
Zenith's son.
At the start of World War 2, Nazi scientists created the first superhuman "Masterman".  Some of those experts defected to the allies bringing with them the "Masterman serum" to create "Maximan" and then later the rest of them.  David goes on to say, "that serum originated with extradimensional entities called the Lloigor.  These entities exist beyond space and time..."  And suddenly Peyne realise what's coming next and just what he had done.

David: "...We even fought the Lloigor without realising just what they were.  Beyond time and space, existing simultaneously at every moment in history.  It was us you see.  It was us all along.  We are.  We were. We will be, The Lloigor".

We then return to Zenith and Peter as they fly around seeing how the whole world is now in ruins.   They arrive back in London and Zenith wants to hide somewhere.  Peter says they'd find them sooner or later, "they've finally done what they intended to do a long time ago". Zenith says maybe it's time he tells him what the plan was.

In the sixties they found the government was trying to sterlise them to prevent them breeding.  It was then they formulated the so-called plan.  Peyne had instilled in them that they were to be mankinds evolutionary successors, "as far beyond humanity and humanity was beyond the first air-breathing fish.  That was his dream and it split us apart".  Peter wanted to lift humanity up to their level, he really thought it was possible back then in the sixties.

The others had a more clean slate approach, Zenith parents were to produce the first child, Peter and Ruby Fox the second.  But Peter refused to particpate as did Siadwel Rhys.  The others said it didn't matter, they told them how they planned to cleanse the planet by wrenching the Earth of it's axis and killing ninety percent of terrestrial life in the process, "a clean slate".  Looks like shifting the axis wasn't enough, "now look what they've done."
Peyne still getting younger.
We return to Peyne, a fit young man in his early twenties now.  He thinks a lot about Shockwave and Blaze, Blaze is a Lloigor now.  Shockwave however was cloned from Ruby's DNA and Ruby wanted it back, disintergrating Shockwave in the process.   After that they all became energy forms and flew into the Black Sun, "and I dreaded their return".

He thought that after the superhuman war and rise of the Black Sun the worst was over, but he was completely wrong.  He imagined there were still a few people alive in the world and that included Peter and Zenith.  They must have heard the shriek filling the world of "terror and triumph and disgust and joy." The others had been incubating in the sun and now they were returning:

Peyne: "The Black Sun wasn't a sun you see.  It was a door.  It was an egg. It was the physical extrusion of a realm beyond our own. It was a gateway into the world of the Lloigor. The Many-Angled Ones.  And on that day, the gateway was finally opened."

The Lloigor were finally free to invade the phsycial universe and for Peyne it was infinitely worse because it was his superhumans that were the Lloigor.   Time had become meaningless, he thinks on how it would take ages to work out what really happened. "I just can't be bothered" he thinks, "I seem to be forgetting things now."

He doesn't understand the early parts of the book he's been writing, "in fact it's really boring."  All he remembers is that it started with a scream and Earth went into spasm.  We then see Zenith and Peter getting ready to confront the Lloigor who stand before them as golden energy forms.  The one who was David asks if they are really sure they want to face them who have given up flesh and have a conciousness extending across a multitude of dimensions. Peter says they're ready.  "Speak for yourself" whispers Zenith.

Peyne remembers he didn't see any of that final battle until it was over. He felt sorry for them, what did they think they were going up against?

Peyne: "And yet, it doesn't seem right, somehow.  Peter was never  so reckless.  He used to think like a chess player.  Why did he confront them so directly?"

We see Peter wrestling with the everchanging forms of the Lloigor, he's brain friend and tossed down onto the statue of Maximan, the steel fist going through his chest.  Still clinging to life he mentally attacks but ends up being immolated. Now only Zenith is left.
Peter is killed.
Peyne is now a child, and he writes that he "can't seem to write what's in my head.  Can't remember the words."  He writes about how he can't remember why Peter came to see him and what he was carrying in his hand. Then he goes skipping off.  Meanwhile we see what became of Zenith.  He is putting up a good fight when his child suddenly appears floating in front of him. 

The boy asks if Zenith remembers him, then suddenly turns into a mouth full of teeth saying "maybe you remember me now.  Iok Sokot".  Zenith stammers something, but to no avail.  A flash and he is a charred skeleton lying on the ground close by where Peter was killed.
And so is Zenith.
Peynes writing is childish now and he recalls how when he was an old man the Lloigor brought him to view what was left of the bodies of Zenith and Peter, "I liked Peter Sant John the best of all the superhumans I made."  The Lloigor set about changing the world. The people outside now have hands for heads. The sea that washes up to his window is sometimes gold, sometimes faeces.  He thinks they are bored of Earth and doesn't know what they will do next.

The now young child Peyne puts down his pencil and goes to sleep on his bed.  Ruby comes in to say goodbye and finds him now a baby.  She picks him up and holds him saying she wonders what's left of his brilliant mind?  She looks inside and sees Peter St. John in there.  She tells him to forget about that and takes him onto the balcony. She lets go of him and he floats and regresses back to a foetus then out of phsycial existence.

Ruby: "Look! Look what you made!  You're the last of the human race!  Your dream has eaten you whole!  Look what you made!"

The Lloigor come together and look at Peynes book.  They call it "as interesting as ant tracks in the dirt" and destroy it.  Then they leave Earth, "the lunatic spires of London catching fire as they ascended."

Their ascent is described by Peyne, he does not feel, he only narrates and has no opinion. They had grown too vast for Earth's horizon to contain them, but before they left "they stamped their mark on the very subsistence of the planet"  Then they streamed off into space, past all the planets in the system, "outstripping light as they left the solar system behind".
The Lloigor leave Earth.
They went faster and faster racing along the galactic edge and out into the ocean of darkness. Growing vaster than galaxies, annihilating spacetime with their velocity.  Faster and more huge, "catching sight of the ultimate horizon of our universe".  There is the curve of spacetime, the outer limit of possibility approaching the "intangible walls of creation".

Peyne: "And I can't wait to see what's there.  I can't wait for them to see and finally understand.  I can feel them!  I can feel the sudden terror as they reach the threshold of being and catch a glimpse there of something vast beyond all imagining.  Something greater by far than them.  I can feel their shock as they reach that last great uncrossable barrier and realise they're trapped forever.  And beyond the prison universe, there's a hand. And I finally see what it's holding"

The hand is Peter St. John, safe in his office, holding the Chimera pyramid which the Lloigor are all now trapped inside.  He puts it down and says "Ha" as he walks off.
The Lloigor, stuck in a universe of their own.
Later he is talking with Zenith who says they must be pissed off in there.  Peter says he thinks it was a fairly "elegant" way of dealing with them, "they got what they wanted - a universe to rule."  Zenith changes the subject saying it looks like Labour will win the next election, unlike our world where Neil Kinnock was party leader then, this time it's John Smith.

Peter: "Oh, I don't know Zenith. I rather like Downing Street.  And if I move it'll be to... a bigger place".

We cut to couple of weeks later, Zenith and Archie are hanging out driving Zenith's manager Eddie mad.  Eddie puts the news on to discover John Smith has died of a heart attack (spookily when he became party leader post 1992 electoral defeat, the real John Smith died of a heart attack in 1994 paving the way for Tony Blair) and his party is disarray this close to the election on July 23rd. Peter gives his condolences but says the election will go ahead as scheduled. Eddie thinks there is something fishy about all this. "Don't look at me, Eddie" says Zenith, "I've never voted for him".
|Zenith considers new possibilities.
On July 24th Zenith is attending a party while Eddie fusses about his next change of direction, he's changed his mind, it won't be punk it'll be all the "gender-bender" nonsense.  Zenith says Eddie just wants to see him in a bra then drunkenly hugs him. He then leaves the party saying he's fed up with pop music, "it's time for something new I reckon".  He gets into a cab and the cabbie tells him the Tories are in for another five years. "Yeah thought so" says Zenith, "home James."

We end this final Zenith story with a reporter at the Tory election celebrations. Peter St. John has been given his first vote of confidence by the British people.  He's promising a radical new direction for the party and the country and teh electorate has given him the go ahead.  It's been a long road from superhuman flower-power activist to respected member of Thatcher's cabinet.  "But one wonders if, in his wildest dreams, he could ever have imagined this?" says the reporter.  And we end on a close up of Peter's face, his eyes completely white...
A superpowered Tory PM.  Worrying.
And, bar a collosally misjudged one-off for prog 2001 (included in this collection along with a terrible text story by Mark Millar) that was it for Zenith.  I've always had a bit of an ambivalent relationship with this story and most of it sadly can be boiled down to really not liking the art.  Steve Yeowell here is somewhere between his high energy, loose manga style he used for the first three Zenith storylines and his more delicate and precise work on Devlin Waugh.  At this mid-point it looks clumsy and is not helped by a poor coloring job too.  There is plenty I do like, from all the hints dropped that Peyne and the Lloigor are inside the Chimera which stops the ending feeling like a deus ex machina.   I like Peyne's writing style changing as he gets younger, even though he ends up the main character in the story where part of me thinks Zenith should have a more forefront role.  The revelation that the superhumans are also the Lloigor does feel a bit like it comes from leftfield, but does just about work.  There have been enough premonitions that in retrospect fit now.  The plan has always been there too, and turns out that would have been just as bad for humanity even if the superhumans hadn't become the Lloigor.  I think the main problem is that this is The Godfather 3 to the previous Zenith storylines Godfather 2.  A fine story in its own right, but suffers from having one of the best 2000AD storylines ever as its predeccessor.  Overall though, Zenith is well worth checking out if you haven't already. The four volumes have been released in sumptious hardbacks with all the extra material included.  You really have no excuse for not checking out 2000AD's only superhero now.

Friday, 16 June 2017

Devlin Waugh: Sirius Rising (2000AD #1168-1174)

"Happy doomsday Devlin" - Hekt

Time to wrap up a three volume plotline from the 2000AD Devlin Waugh series.  Devlin Waugh started out in the very early nineties as something of a parody deconstruction of the over-muscled, over-maco types in UK and US comics. Written by John Smith and painted by Sean Philips he was indeed a very muscular man who could get pretty violent in a fight.  He was also an openly gay, foppish dandy of a fellow highlighting the extreme homoeroticism that comics were often unwittingly depicting.  After his first story, Swimming in Blood in which he got turned into a vampire, he was forgotten for a while, before trimuphantly returning with a slightly less extreme look depicted by the highly talented artist Steve Yeowell who beautiful depicts the now more psychedelic world of Waugh. We got to see more of his backstory as a special occult investigator working for the Dredd-worlds equivalent of the Vatican which now monitors all occurances of magic and mystery.  After attempting to retire, the reluctant Devlin Waugh was pulled into an investigation which in the first volume resulted in the release of a creature called "The Herod" which is a huge monster impervious to harm and viciously violent under the control of "Lord Benjamen Hekt" who uses it as an assassin killing everyone born on July 23rd.  In the second book, a meeting of all the various occultists in the world comes to the realisation that someone has struck "the massmind of the world" Hekt attacks them and the rest of Earth with tidal waves.  Hekt is planning on bringing back something called "The Nommo" and is preparing the way for it by flooding the Earth.  The book culminates in an attempt by Devlin and companions to stop the Nommo, but they fail and flee the place it hatched in, they now have six days before the end of the world.  I don't think I've summed this very complex story up very well, so check out Book 1 Chasing Herod and Book 2, Reign Of Frogs if you haven't already.
Devlin contemplates the end of the world.
It begins in Brit Cit, there is panic and flames as the end of the world grows closer.  Devlin and a fellow occultist called Ralph are watching, depressed.   They realise the "Jack Of Knives" has activated another "Centre of Pestilance." Ralph notes this is true, "it's bedlam out there.  Power's down over half the city and the people are either crazy or in shock."  Even the animals in the zoo are affected and have broken out and running wild.

Devlin: "I can feel it even this far away.  The vibration getting higher... a popping and whizzing like water on a hot plate... Spacetime is growing then Ralph - and the closer we get to July 23rd.  The worse it's sure to become."

Back at the Vatican, Eddie Whyteman, a sort of seedy paranormal P.I. is admiring the new prosthetic hand he's been fitted by the Vatican boffins.  It has all sorts of functions, including a built in "Ferromagnetic bomb". Then he attends a recap meeting of what the situation is now, by Pussy Willow, another Vatican operative.

To sum up, the Earth Grid is a lattice of force "analogous energy meridians in the human body used in acupuncture."  The lines correspond to seismic faults and ocean ridges as well as atmospheric highs and lows. Where they intersect they form "chakras" seven of which are designated "Centres of Pestilance."  Five have already been triggered and one has just been activated, the one in Brit Cit.   So all that is left is the one at the North Pole.

Pussy: "On July 23rd these massing energies will stream into our atmosphere and Hekt plans to focus them in the Artic Circle where the Earth's magnetic field is weakest. That will be Ground Zero for the mutagenic changes that'll ripple out and reverberate through the grid."

Hekt has killed everyone born on July 23rd so he will become the sole focus for the Sirius Transmission.  But Pussy believes the changes will be triggered in everyone, humanity has gene sequences coded in it's DNA encoded by the Sirians millenia ago.
Eddie gets drafted.
One of the Bishops asks her how they acquired these "sleeper genes".  Pussy replies it was probably direct biological manipulation.  If Hekt activates the grid the danger is he'll activate these genes in everyone.  Eddie is somewhat dubious of "this ancient astronaut crap". Lucy tells him that's a shame because he is going to be going to the North Pole with Devlin., they didn't fix him back up for nothing.

In Brit Cit Devlin gets ready to travel in a ship, Ralph notes that the Vatican Psi-Teks are reverse engineering  start-up codes the Fakir's rope, a magical item that allows travel through space from one end to another. Raplh says they might stand a chance, though Devlin asks him not to bet on it.

Devlin: "I'm about to go traipsing round the Artic with an amatuer psychic sleuth in the dire hope we can prevent poleshift and save the Earth from invasion by amphibious extraterristrials.  We need more than a chance.  We need a bloody miracle."

And he takes off to meet Eddie. We cut to them using a sled and dogs to travel to the North Pole. They now are down to six hours to save the world.  Eddie complains the Fakir's rope is trying to strangle him.  He doesn't know why they have the damn thing, they still haven't cracked the codes.  Devlin tells him to quit whining, he's having to deal with sunlight which is "absolutely ravaging my skin".  They find the Vatican Tac-Team ready to try and stop this last Centre of Pestilence being activated.
The Vatican Tac-Team.
There are tanks and Judges there waiting, they are to defend the Centre while Devlin and Eddie infiltrate Hekt's underwater base. Devlin comments the sumersible is like a sarcophagus, Judge Luciano tells him that they have detected things in the water, "big things".

We then cut to Hekt, one of the Jack of Knives tells him he's sent the Herod to deal with the Judge troops and soon they will activate the final node when it's been purged. Hekt is looking a foetus in a jar saying he is remebering his birth, how they begin as amphibians on the way to growing into a man, "millions of years of evolution compressed into months". The womb is the "ultimate biological machine".

He asks if the "Jack of Mice" is ready to join them.  But he's still downloading his consciousness into his new body. Hekt says he is the first of his cloneselves, "the first of my sub-personalities to develop full autonomy".  So he wants him by his side when they trigger the deluge.

Hekt: "This is my crowning moment.  Twenty long years of planning and every piece is finally in place... rhyming and chiming in harmony.  We tremble on the brink of a new reality.  Soon I'll gaze upon the face of the deep."

We then return to Devlin and Eddie now diving deep down underwater, while a Judge-Inquistor asks Luciano if they stand a chance and Luciano says they better suceed, "I don't fancy the idea of waking up to find the world flooded and ruled by frogs from outer space.  Do you?"

Inside the submersible, Eddie notes Devlin's dapper clothing.  Devlin says it would be neglectful to face their nemesis in "anything less than Armani". He has a reputation to consider after all.  Eddie asks what they are looking for, and Devlin says their info is somewhat vague so they are looking for any anomalies.  Eddie finds one and they head off to investigate, Devlin grins and says, "I'd forgotten how exhilarating saving the world can be."
Mega Shark!
Eddie spots something big on the radar.  It turns out to be a huge shark. It smashes into their submersible and breaches it.  Eddie says these are no ordinary sharks, they are prehistoric ones. Extinct supposedly for three million years.  The shark turns to attack again. Devlin insigates a mind-link and they escape the stricken craft.

Back at the North Pole, the Judge-Inquisitors are battling the Herod.  They are throwing everything they have at it, but not even scratching it as it smashes the tanks and kills them. "It's like trying to stop a Earthquake" yells one of the Judges.

Eddie is sinking fast, going into shock due to the cold of the water.  Then one of the sharks swallows him. The story cuts between them and the devastation at the North Pole. Back at the Vatican they see the activating of the Centre of Pestilance. Lucy says they haven't lost yet, Devlin and Eddie might just make it.  She tells Psi-Tek to focus exclusively on cracking the codes of the Fakir's rope.

Eddie and Devlin are still in telepathic contact. The warmth of the shark's insides have revived Eddie.  Devlin draws some of his own blood to get himself eaten by the same shark while Eddie tells him not to throw his life away saving him. Inside they meet up.  Eddie's leg is injured and he's bleeding profusely.  Devlin fixes him up while noting his blood is AB negative, "the Dom Perignon of blood.  You're bringing out the gourmand in me."
In the belly of the beast.
Devlin the takes out his big blaster gun and blows a hole in the side of the shark.  The blood brings the other sharks to come and feast on it while Devlin lays a big mouth kiss on Eddie to allow him to breathe underwater.   They swim away and find the entrance to Hekt's iceberg lair.  Inside Hekt is being told the North Pole is theirs by the Jack of Knives. Now they are sending up the "Spirit Kites to activate the World Grid" this will allow them to open the outer gateways, "then it's time to meet our makers".

Devlin and Eddie surface inside Hekt's base.  Eddie notes that of all his debauched experiences, he's never had mouth-to-mouth with a vampire.  Devlin says it was his first time with "someone of the non-caucasion persuasion". They go and look for the poleshift generator. Eddie uses the EM scanner in his bionic hand to locate the generator which is being fired up as they speak, "well he might have lit the fuse but let's see if we can't put a stop to the fireworks." says Devlin.

As they walk, Eddie asks if the poleshift really results in mass extinction.  Devlin confirms it as well as jump-starting evolution as well.  If the dinosaurs hadn't become extinct they'd all still be living in trees. They come across the Jack of Mice being reborn in his new body.  Devlin takes great delight in killing him again quipping, "you only live twice."
Hekt is gleefully watching as the Jack of Knives gets ready to fully activate the North Pole Centre of Exellence.  He has the Nommo wit him who he calls "Ixaxxar".

Hekt: "It's opening hyperdimensions interlocking with our own. A great rusty gmte opening onto the future.  The deep is calling me home."

Then Devlin and Eddie arrive on the scene and Devlin points his blaster at Hekt, telling him he'll put him down "like the mad dog you are."

Hekt calls him a thorn in his side and becomes angry when he realises The Jack of Mice has been killed.  Eddie yells at Devlin to shoot him, but both are frozen in place by Hekt's new powers.  Hekt takes away the blaster saying he's paralysed his brain stem, "isn't it amazing the things you can do when you put your mind to it."
Hekt and Ixaxxar versus Eddie and Devlin.
We then cut to the Philippines where some Judge-Inquisitors are waiting on the edge of a volcano with the other end of the Fakir's rope. The code to it has been cracked so Eddie and Devlin can use it to escape. But is it too late, the nodes are activated and their chained up survivor of the Herod's July 23rd rampage is screaming. The "Sirius current" is about to ripple through the whole world grid.

Lucy: "Global switch-on. Everyone - everywhere - evolving into a new lifeform so we can survive the catastrophic earth changes caused by poleshift. Mutate or die."

Back in Hekt's base, he's starting to change physically.  The "Spirit Lens" is focusing and vibrating every cell preparing his body for ascension.  He shoots Eddie in the knee caps when Eddie tries to tell him he's wrong about the Nommo.  He transforms into a being made of blue light saying Ixaxxar has shown him the way.

Devlin yells at him that Ixaxxar is senile from being entombed from so long. But Hekt again says Ixaxaar has shown him the way.   Freed him from the shackles of everyday consciousness. And when the gateway opens, the rest of humanity will follow.  He's so close already, "they're coming to take me away."  Then he shoots Devlin three times in the chest.

Hekt, Jack of Knives, The Herod and Ixaxar then travel to the snowy surface as the born-on-the-23rd man back at the Vatican also starts mutating too. Soon everyone else on Earth will follow, and greeting Hekt, The Herod, Jack of Knives and Ixaaxar is a huge floating spherical object which declares it's "III greetings from the Sirius Corpus: III You have our attention".
This could be bad.
Back down inside Hekt's base, Devlin gets up.  Noting that being "nosferatu isn't completely without its uses", he asks how Eddy is.  Eddy is still bleeding from badly now from his ruined knees.  He hands the Fakir's rope to him so Devlin can use it later.  Eddie is going to try and shut off the EM scanner, while Devlin will head up and take on Hekt.  Devlin wishes his well saying they have travelled a hard road but he cherishes every step forever.  "Screw forever" says Eddie "let's just get through the next ten minutes".  And Devlin climbs up and away.

Hekt meanwhile is joyfully saying that Ixaxxar showed him how to "draw down the lightning.  Filled me with the fire of rapture".

Sirius Corpus: "III You have disrupted earth's presequenced evolutionary schedule: III Global grid disruption will trigger human psycho/somatic failsafes: III The decloaking of Sirius Conciousness in the Human Lifewave:"

Painfully Eddy drags himself through Hekt's base while Devlin finally reaches the surface and challenges Hekt, while the Sirians start to prepare for the turn on of the next phase of human evolution when the EM generator triggers the poleshift.

But before he can do anything, Hekt is cleared for ascension by the Sirians and disappears in a puff of blue flame along with Ixaxxar leaving Devlin with the Jack of Knives and The Herod. "Now prepare for the end of everything" says Jack as The Herod looms over them.  Jack doesn't intimidate Devlin who starts to kick his ass while dodging the attacks of The Herod.
Devlin makes his escape as Eddie makes the ultimate sacrifice.
Eddie reaches the EM generator as the countdown reaches under a minute but can't get close enough to shut it off.  Devlin activates the Fakir's rope and it also activates at the other end at the top of a volcano in the Philippines.  Devlin travels through the ropes space warp with The Herod behind him.  Meanwhile Eddy realises "who wants to live for ever anyway?" and just before the countdown ends he activates the bomb in his bionic arm and blows the EM generator and Hekt's base and himself to smithereens taking Jack of Knives on the surface out too.

The Sirians state "III Evolutionary shift parameters: stabilised DNA activation program on shutdown: : III Disengaging holosphere:"  Devlin realises what Eddie - "that poor sweet boy" - had done.  But they still have The Herod to deal with and it's halfway through the hole the rope made.

But this is it's downfall, they shut the rope off and the hole closes which neatly slices The Herod in half.  Then Devlin and the two others manning the rope push the half Herod into the volcano and for good measure blow it up sealing The Herod in the lava for good.
The bisected Herod entombed for good.
Lucy calls Devlin from The Vatican to tell him that things are returning to normal, the Centres of Pestilence are powering down and the Earth's Grid is restabilising, even though it will take months to fully become safe. Devlin notes that in the process thousands died by floods, earthquakes and disease not to mention "wholesale zodiacal genocide" it's not been a huge success.  They return to Pussy Willow's ship:

Devlin: "I'll fix us some Bloody Marys and we shall all get roaring drunk and toast another glorious day on Spaceship Earth".

There is a short sequence after this that shows what became of Hekt.  Now a Nommo himself he swims through the Sirius system and reflects that "I'm happy here.  For the first time in my life this is where I belong... Sirius rises".
Nommo!Hekt is sort of cute.
This is very much a story that only really makes sense as the last part of a larger storyline so I hope it's been read as such, with this concentrating pretty much purely on action and less on characterisation.  All the pieces fit together very well, I did realise what Eddie's fate would finally be when he revealed his Chekhov's bomb in his bionic hand.  It's a shame he died, because a shambling paranormal detective in a milieu where magic does exist could have remained an odd couple partner for the impeccable looking Vatican affiliated Devlin, their banter is excellent and I like how they can quip while also facing down the possible end of the world as they knew it. Killing The Herod off as well as allowing Devlin to escape the explosion was also a really clever way of taking down something that had been built up as completely unstoppable.  The Fakir's rope helped kick off the plotline only fair it helped end them too.  I even quite like how Hekt got a happy ending, the guy seemed to really hate being human and while it was a dick move to trigger the changes he experienced in all humanity, seeing him as a cute little Nommo at the end makes it hard to totally hate him.  Matching John Smith's boundlessly inventive imagination is Steve Yeowell's wonderful art which depicts all kind of weird and wonderful characters beautifully with crisp, firm detail.  This storyline overall was great stuff, filling out Devlin from the rather one note creation he was in Swimming In Blood and giving him allies, peers and enemies in abundance. Magic might feel a bit of a weird fit for Dredd's world, but Smith makes it work and the cheeky way he uses The Vatican as now the centre of tracking, investigating and dealing with occult threats is just highly amusing.  Devlin will return in the next collection, "Red Tide" when UK comics month comes around again.

Thursday, 8 June 2017

The V.C.s Back In Action: Book 2 (2000AD #1327-1335)

"I love it when odds pay off" - Smith

Time to return to Dan Abnett's noughties revival and sequel series of early 2000AD space opera series the V.C.s. That told the story of a motley group of humans from the various planets in a federation of planets.  We followed viewpoint character Smith, from Earth as they fought an aggressive alien race nicknamed the Geeks.  All bar Smith and the Sergeant Jupe were killed off as the story progressed but in the end humanity was victorious.  Fifty years later and Smith is working as a maintenance worker who has visions of his old comrades he talks to and who keep him company. At Peace Day to commemorate fifty years of peace between humans and geeks a radical faction of geeks attacked and it turned out the only equipment and ships that could stand against them effectively was the fifty year old stuff.  As a valued veteran of that first war, Smith was promoted to Major and put in charge of a team of his own, Diderot, Lin-Fu, Ryx, Kali and Geege who is a geek from the geeks who wish for peaceful relations between humans and geek. Book one saw Smith train up and forge his team into a formidable fighting force with Geege especially overcoming the prejudice of the rest of the crew.  Now it's one year later and the war is still raging so we join the V.C.s (stands for "Vacuum Cleaners") in the midst of battle.

We begin Book 2 with Smith and two others outside in space taking cover on an asteroid which is bobbing about inside the orbit of Mercury and experiences intense and lethal five minute days every three hundred seconds.   So they have to duck and cover to avoid being broiled alive in their suits which can only survive twenty-three seconds in the glare.

Smith:  "All we hear is our own scratchy breathing and the accelerating pip of our suit counters. Then it's night again. Because that's what we do...  We're vacuum cleaners"

They are hunting for a Geek ship that went to ground two hours ago and they "ain't leaving till it's cleaned".   They crest a hill and find their lander, poly-shielded against the glare and bristling with gun-pods.
Smith dares to be badass.
They end up exchanging heavy weapons fire against it, but realise they'll never get close enough to their armour. Smith thinks fast, when day comes they are both blind so he times a jump out of cover just over four minutes into day, "one second safety margin, and I'll be blind".  The sun comes up and he blasts into the air and flies towards the Geek ship and drops a powerful explosive onto the ship before the sun goes down and the Geek ship explodes.  Lin-Fu is amazed but he modestly says, "all in a day's work."

We then cut to the V.C.s ship responding to a distress call from a civilian ship The Celestine under heavy Geek attack.  There is also another military ship captained by a complete asshole called "Veto".   When Smith tries to coordinate their attacks to best protect the Celestine he just snarls, "don't you presume ta give me orders!  You stinking V.C.s think your God's frickin' gift!"

Veto's ship take out a Geek one. Smith yells at him that it is no time for feuding even if the loathing is mutual. They blast a Geek ship, declare one all then Smith asks him to protect the damn civilian ship.   But Veto's ship goes wide chasing after "another loose kill".  Smith desperately orders his crew to target the ships closest to the Celestine but they can't cover them all.  
The V.C.s try to save the Celestine.
The Celestine is blown apart with no survivors. Veto sneers that it's "a shame the colonial half-breeds got vaped."  He pegged two kills to their one though, "better luck next time" and his ship departs with Smith swearing ".... God help me, he'll pay".

We then rejoin the V.C.s in power down mode.  They are holding pattern with everything bar Smith's scanner and basic life support switched off.  We are invited to enjoy Ryx's thoughts on the matter. He ponders what Smith has said to them about "tickover".

Ryx: "Major Smith says that prolonged periods of waiting are an integral part of any combat tour. Major Smith says the build up of tension is good, because it keeps us sharp.  Major Smith also says we should look upon tickover as a chance to focus our minds and enjoy a moment of self reflection. We my mind is real focused, and in the spirit of self reflection I can say Major Smith talks out of his butt".

He's bored and hates the silence.   His scopes are off so he is staring at nothing and with the air-scrubbers off they all get to enjoy each other's stale odours.  He's been holding in a massive fart because he doesn't want to spend the next three hours smelling it.
Ryx ponders the boredom of tickover.
The others cope in their own way.  Lin-Fu meditates, he had asked her in the past if it was tantric and got a slap in the face for his trouble.  Keege reads books on how to interact with humans. Diderot and Kali play rude versions of rock-paper-scissors.  And Smith just hunches over the tac-scope, "just stares at it like it's going to show im the future.  Or maybe the past".

Ryx ponders how Smith, being a veteran of the first Geek war is treating this new war as "unfinished business.  A score he's been waiting a fricking long time to settle."  Then Smith spots a Geek ship and the power back up with the waiting over, "time to clean up".

We then rejoin them in the midst of another firefight along with a friendly ship captained by a man called "Spense".  They collect their targets and "vape 'em!" They catch some heat though, but Spense flanks them and protects them as they get ready to chase down the remnants of the Geek ships.  They discover that there are two concentrations of Geeks, in front and straight down below.

Smith's ship goes for the wide target as Spense's goes for the dive.  But something odd happens, the reading Smith has keeps disappearing "just hazy, like it's not really there."  Then it is upon them and it's no Geek ship.  It's a huge ship belonging to the mysterious organisation called "The Polity".
The Polity appears.
The ship doesn't respond to their hails, but doesn't appear to be hostile. Lin-Fu worked in the diplo-corp before the war and confirms that it is most likely a Polity ship.

Smith: "The Polity.  They've always been there. Long before us naked apes roamed the vacuum.  A massive federation of superior races. Advanced, elitist, considering themselves above such petty things as war.  They stood by and watched as man and Geek slugged it out first time."

Before the latest war broke out they had been considering letting humanity join. An invitation that was quickly rescinded when war kicked off.

Didirot wonders wonders what they want, they seem to be just silently watching them. Smith thinks how they've come to watch the "primitive creatures" fight, observing them like goldfish in a tank.   Smith wonders how advanced you have to be not to "lend a hand and stop people dying?"

Then a swarm of Geek ships appear and Spense contacts them saying he needs help. He's got twenty-nine hostiles on his ship's back. Smith tries to get a response from the Polity ship saying he's begging them to help, to at least scare away the Geeks on top of Spense, "silence. They don't budge."

So Smith and his crew go in full tilt and start taking out Geek ships, but it's not enough and one Geek hit blows Spense's ship apart.  The rest of the Geeks high-tail it back into hyperspace and the Polity ship warps away as well.  Bitterly Smith thinks how the Polity say they can't get involved because it would "compromise their enthical values".

Smith: " Well, answer me this. You've got a ship so powerful you can stop worlds spinning and restart suns.  You watch living sentients die right under your nose.  What the frick does that say about your ethical values?"

We then join Ryx and Lin-Fu engaged in some planetary jungle warfare.  Ryx once again narrates.  Ryx takes out a Geek that had surprise Lin-Fu and she thanks him.  He admires her boobs and quips "I love when a girl falls for me."  She tells him he won't want her reporting him for sexual harrassment in the workplace.  "Be a P.C V.C. Gotcha" Ryx responds.
She retorts that this is a two-person operation "not a date".  She then tells him to contact Smith as they have cleared the Geeks out.  The ship can't make it to them for at least an hour so Ryx and Lin-Fu have some time to kill.  But then Lin-Fu detects a Geek signature so they decide to go and check it out.

Ryx keeps looking at her boobs and getting even more hot and sweaty, while Lin-Fu is somewhat oblivious to his lustful thoughts towards her. Then she realises and accuses him of being "transparent".  Anxiously he responds, "and cute? Just a smidge?".  Then they reach their target, a Earth-Gov terraformed farm, and they discover Geeks there possibly poisoning the food supply. They blast the Geeks and go and investigate closer. Lin-Fu examines the stuff being stored there and says it's not of Geek origin. Then yells at Ryx for calling her "sweetcheeks".

Back on board and on patrol again, inside Geege is checking over the stuff they took from the planet and says although the boxes are of Geek design the devices are not of Geek manufacture.  He says he's not exactly sure what they are but thinks that they, "were designed to seed toxic pathogens into the 10 food farms."  Smith tells him to keep examining the devices and see what the micro-spec will show up.

Smith congratulates Ryx and Lin-Fu and asks if they ran into any trouble.  Lin-Fu says she was "bothered by something small and hairy, sir."  Smith asks if it was persistant? "Not after I aimed a weapon at it" she says while Ryx looks guilty.

Smith says they are going to head for Mars and get G.C.C Tech to examine the devices. Diderot then says he is picking up a weak distress call.  They boost ot through the speakers and it turns out to be Jupe which is out of the system beyond Pluto. Smith tells Kali to set course, the visit to Mars can wait, "Jupe was my first C.O. in the first one, Kali.  I ain't gonna leave him begging... not for anything!"
On a rescue mission.
They arrive at the scene and find two other ships have answered the call, one of them being Veto's ship.   He sneers over the comms that "it looks like your old buddy got vaped but good." This angers Smith, but before he can unload on Veto, Diderot says he's picking up a call from inside the automated mining platform which is crawling with Geeks.

Everyone gets suited up, they are going to peform an "Evac and Extract". They burn in and drop onto the platform.  Ryx queries why they are doing this after having the mantra "you're hit, you're dead" drummed into them.  Smith says Jupe knows the saying wel, but if he is calling for help that means there is more going on than meets the eye, "there is more at stake here than his neck."

Leaving Kali piloting the ship, the rest start making their way across the mining platform, vaping Geeks as they go. They work their way to the depot area picking up a weapon signal that isn't Geek so it much be Jupe.  They blast there way over there and find an injured Jupe, the last one of his squad left standing.
Saving Segeant Jupe.
He apologises and says it wasn't him they needed to come for, it was some vital information he has stored on a small computer in his hand.  The Geek's are building something out past Pluto, "A mass driver weapon big enough to spit out meteors the size of Africa. Spit 'em out.  Straight at Mother Earth!"

With Jupe, they start fighting their way out of the depot. Smith calls Kali who doesn't respond right away.  But she is there she has some Geeks on her tail she needs to shake before she can evac them.  Veto's ship has split, but the other one captained by a man called Laker shoots the Geeks chasing her and she is able to land to pick the team up.

They all board safely and Kali blasts away as fast as the ship will take them.  But then Laker's ship is blasted to smithereens leaving Smith's ship the last one standing. Jupe is desperately trying to find find a com-band he can upload the information on the Geek weapon to but the Geeks are jamming all comm traffic.

Kali tries a desperate manouvere to get the Geeks off their butt by sling-shotting the ship round Pluto's moon Charon. Smith tries not to think that it's the name of the ferryman of the dead.  But the ship takes a hit, Smith thinks tha means they're dead and Earth will never know what the Geeks are up too as the ship falls through Charon's atmosphere....
The end of the V.C.s?
And that cliffhanger bring Book 2 to an end.  This is huge fun still. Epic space war sprinkled with genuine moments of humour and humanity.  It's nice seeing the crew interact and bond under the brooding command of Smith.  Ryx and Lin-Fu's growing attraction to each other is cute stuff and quite understandable given they are living in very close proximity to each other under constant threat of death.  Future plot points are seeded here with the mysterious Polity still an unknown factor in the war and the mystery of the devices found being used by the Geeks to poison the Earth's food supply. Dan Abnett's writing keeps the style of the original V.C. comic very well, and Anthony Williams art has a real heft and weight to it, with some wonderful renderings of space battles.  I real like the "blue collar" soldier vibe this series has always had, a gang of disparate people working as a team with even a Geek fully accepted because he's proved his loyalty in the forge of battle.  It's nice to be invited into the thoughts of someone other than Smith who remains an imposing prescence even at his pensionable age. Ryx is kind of goofy and likeable with his clumsy flirting with Lin-Fu and his lack of awe at Smith's advice on how to treat downtime.  All-in-all this is a fun continuation of the modern storyline which also keeps the spirit of the classic original.  Now do they all survive the crash onto Charon?  You'll have to wait until the next UK comic month to find out.  Oh what a tease I am!