The Trigan Empire: The Collection – The Green Smog

The Trigan Empire: The Collection – The Green Smog
The Trigan Empire the Green Smog review
  • UK publisher / ISBN: The Don Lawrence Collection - 978-90-8886-02-70
  • Volume No.: 12
  • Release date: 2009
  • UPC: 9789088860270
  • Contains adult content?: no
  • Does this pass the Bechdel test?: no
  • Positive minority portrayal?: no

The Green Smog presents the final four Trigan Empire strips illustrated by Don Lawrence, and for the sake of completion, a text story for which he provided illustrations. The landmark is commemorated by editor Steve Holland not only providing appreciations of each story, which has been the case for every volume, but also biographical essays about creators Mike Butterworth and Lawrence. It includes the sad disclosure that their only face to face meeting ended with them falling out.

In one sense ‘The Ultimate Collection’ is all over the place, perhaps constructed as a wish list of what Lawrence fancied drawing. There’s the fastest plane on Elekton, a massive dinosaur skeleton, a native American raiding party, a sports contest and a jewel housed in a magnificent structure, all so well realised by Lawrence he forgets his design for Elekton’s greatest composer, and creates two different people for separate strips. However Butterworth comprehensively joins the disparate items together via a collection, and delivers a homily about what’s of true value.

The title story is now a little dated, and elements may seem familiar as Butterworth reworks an earlier creation seen in The Red Death, when a ravenous plant ravaged Elekton. Here, though, he takes a different approach more explicitly referencing pollution, and in 1976 his compromise solution was far removed from the usual decisive victory presented in serialised British comics.

‘The Lost Valley’ is very different, and the only overtly comical story run during Lawrence’s artistic tenure. A new civilisation is discovered, tremendously proud of their accomplishments, which are not only flawed, but decades behind Trigan technology. Butterworth has fun introducing their faulty equipment, then masterfully turns them into a functional ideal, while also including the possibility of war and corrupt diplomacy. Lawrence enjoys drawing museum piece planes and cars.

A second mention of pollution also prompts ‘The Fall-Out Menace’ when radioactive waste sent into space falls back to the planet. Chief Scientist Peric can’t predict the consequences, but knows they’ll be catastrophic. It’s by the numbers horror, and Lawrence finds little to inspire him, restricting as much as possible to talking heads and keeping the viewpoints in close. It’s rapidly wrapped up in ten pages rather than the sixteen usually allocated by 1976, and it’s not a great memorial from either creator.

Text story ‘They Came From Out of the Night’ is also uninspired, sharing several similarities with ‘The Green Smog’, as editor Steve Holland points out. Any Lawrence illustration is worth seeing, and he produces a great portrait of Trigo, Peric and Janno, but designing fearsome aliens was never a strength, although these creatures pre-empt the similar looking Harry Potter’s house elf by three decades.

Even though the eccentric story inclusions seem to fit an artistic wish list, this isn’t Lawrence’s finest Trigan Empire work. That statement has to be qualified by noting he’s one of Britain’s greatest comic artists, and so even his rushed work stands above the best many artists could manage.

As of writing, Amazon list this as unavailable, but the luxury package is available at half price from The Book Palace, who also have others from the series in stock. Everything is found at a less luxurious size in the paperback The Rise and Fall of the Trigan Empire Volume V, which also includes a run of tales by Lawrence’s successor Oliver Frey.