Review by Ian Keogh
After eight artists contributed to the first Mek Files compilation, this is the work of Kevin Walker from noteworthy start to accomplished finish, and also new is Tony Skinner, co-writing with series creator Pat Mills. The result of the new creative input is to bump the quality of the series up somewhere near the level of the original 1979 material and prove The Black Hole was just a small blip along the way.
Mek Files 02 reunites two stories originally combined for their graphic novel publication as Khronicles of Khaos and Hellbringer, then subsequently published as two separate graphic novels. They restore the fun to ABC Warriors, whose purpose remains as avatars of Khaos, attempting to overthrow the Terran Empire. Mills and Skinner dig deeper into the characters than previously, having some fun with Deadlock’s air of superiority actually being a front for loopy cowardice, even if his magical abilities are genuine. General Blackblood is revealed as the necessary evil we always suspected, except now given a definitive purpose, and Hammerstein continues to play straight man to everyone else, the upstanding soldier they all consider ridiculous. The team have two missions, the first to provide enough victims for a spell that will free much of the universe, and the second to deal with a machine capable of merging planets with their counterparts from other dimensions. This causes battles that ultimately destroy the populations. Opening the first story the priority is recruiting a new seventh member, and a ten year gap separates the ending of ‘Khroncles’ from the start of ‘Hellbringer’, so that begins with Hammerstein tasked with reuniting the team, who’ve all changed in the meantime.
Walker, little known when he began working on ABC Warriors, is a revelation on the first full colour stories, bringing a fantastic sense of design to the cast and their hardware. Under most other hands the new characters needed every episode would rapidly devolve into generic efforts, but Walker produces one distinctive design after another, surely thankful when toward the end of the Hellbringer portion the cast remain relatively stable. He’s also great with the guns. ABC Warriors is all about excess, and Walker supplies some preposterously sized firearms.
The excess extends to the scripts, where Mills and Skinner dispense with the po-faced tone of The Black Hole and restore the anarchic lowbrow commentary so characteristic of early 2000AD. For their amusement and ours, Mills and Skinner throw in a hefty dose of humour on a scale from irreverence to offence depending on how highly you value tax inspectors, politicians and teachers.
Mek Files 02 is brash, explosive, and one hell of a lot of fun.