Review by Ian Keogh
Hellbringer picks up ten years after the previous Khronicles of Khaos, and is a companion volume from the same creative team, indeed the pair were packaged together when first released as graphic novels. A spell successfully arranged has spread Khaos through the Terran Empire, which has now been disintegrating for some time. So where does that leave the ABC Warriors?
Back to duty actually, as Deadlock has identified the threat of Hellbringer, but getting the old gang back together isn’t going to be easy. They’ve always had a combative relationship, and the core members have taken wildly different paths, a recurring joke being Hammerstein’s discovery of exactly how little he’s valued by them. Pat Mills and Tony Skinner spend half the book on the gathering mission, the assorted ABC Warriors having found new tasks suited to their particular talents, the funniest being the new ecologically friendly Mek-Quake. Their interpretation of Deadlock is increasingly surreal, a mystic perhaps, but also cowardly and chaotic, as befits a disciple of Khaos. The Hellbringer of the title is also a tidy piece of invention, a planetary sized device that twists reality, merging planets with their counterparts from another dimension, resulting in struggles that tear the planet apart. It’s operated by religious fanatics who consider any world that’s rejected them to be heretical and deserving of its fate.
Kevin Walker is again on fine form with the art. The sheer number of design concepts he has to create over an ABC Warriors story would keep your average alien shoot ‘em up game populated for a couple of editions. For much of the book he strikes a brighter tone than previously, allowing some daylight into the Warriors’ world, but as events become darker, so does the art.
ABC Warriors is a strip where over the top is the prevailing standard, so the arch dialogue and opinions Mills and Skinner voice through their primary villain are just par for the course among the excess, and on occasion very funny. As the story was planned for serialisation, not as a graphic novel, it’s written to include plenty of cliffhanger surprises, all neatly resolved and it’s only really the second half of the book where Hellbringer moves to a continued story. The plot is straightforward in that the ABC Warriors have to cause a mess, but you knew that going in, and the enjoyment is in seeing them do it and the little funny moments along the way.
The Third Element is the next graphic novel, and it’s worth mentioning that Hellbringer was initially combined with the previous Khronicles of Khaos for Hamlyn’s 1997 graphic novel, before they were separated for the 21st century publications, then reunited in ABC Warriors: Mek Files 02.