Bad Company
Bad Company II
Medium: comic
Year: 1987
Writer: Peter Milligan
Artist: Brett Ewins, Jim McCarthy
Country: UK
Keywords: Bad Company, 2000 AD, favourite
Format: Progs 548-557 and 576-585, twenty episodes, 123 pages
Website category: Comics
Review date: 30 August 2021
Danny Franks is still alive. Kano's whereabouts are unknown, but he's probably unkillable. The planets Ararat and Earth have both died, leaving the human race on the verge of extinction. It's got one generation left, maybe two. The war's been lost and the last miserable scraps of mankind are eking out an existence on the ghetto planets in the armpit of the Krool Empire.
Bad Company is dead, long live Bad Company. Danny Franks has a mission. He's going to recruit another bunch of monsters. "An alien who hates humans. A human who hates humans. A man who loves pain, and a madman who's a total pain."
PROTOID = the gross, shapeshifting star of the new characters. He's openly evil, he eats people and the nastiest moment of this sequel series is him decapitating a team mate. He also wants to join Bad Company. No one knows why.
DE RACINE = a pompous, bored Elite who's so rich that he's custom-engineered his own body parts into lethal weapons. "Nice, Danny. Protoid joins for no reason we can think of. De Racine joins to prove he's better than us, and to kill Protoid. Nothing I like better than team spirit..."
RACKMAN = a masochist with taller hair than the Bride of Frankenstein.
SHEEVA = a telekinetic Boomer Baby who can destroy anything at an atomic level.
It's taking Bad Company to another level. It works both as a blood-and-guts war sequel and as a deeper, trippier journey into Milliganworld. It'll please both the neanderthals and the chin-stroking intellectuals. For the latter, it's dealing with Eastern religions, reincarnation and the circle of life. Shreeva explains that we're all part of the dancing universe, the rhythm of creation and destruction, the cosmic dance. Danny Franks and Rackman both experience the bliss of pain so extreme that you cease to exist. ("It was wonderful," says Danny, after his transcendental religious experience in the reservoir of pain. Rackman... well, just look at his penultimate face.) The climax is about a form of reincarnation, either as a god or a devil. (Or both.) "My God. Now I know. Now I understand the story Shreeva told me, about the face of Krisna being revealed to Arjuna."
Danny Franks is still a Latin-citing intellectual, albeit with diminished sanity, but this time most of his new teammates are liable to talk like him. Even Kano's capable of talking zen. One of the more deceptively important team members is Mac, who's just a grunt with no superpowers... but he's also the one who talks Ordinary Bloke and cuts through the bullshit.
We also, though, have the violent post-war story. Yes, post-war. The war's over. Bad Company has no nameless grunts and the body count's lower, although that doesn't mean everyone will survive. There will be disgusting metamorphoses, loss of body parts and someone who dies after having his body stretched to about nine foot. The Krool are also still a huge presence. This side of the story is bloody and satisfying.
This series ran in two halves: "The Bewilderness" (#548-557) and "The Krool Heart" (#576-585). I own these strips in their 1988 Titan Books collections, so I don't have "Young Men Marching" (2000AD Annual 1989) or "Simply" (#601, inked by Steve Dillon).
As for the art, there are panels here that might be the nearest you'd get to Jack Kirby in UK comics. (Well, apart from Shaky Kane.) Ewins and McCarthy in black-and-white are still perfect for this material.
To be honest, I think the original Bad Company was probably more special. It was actual war. This is just SF misfits on a mission, with which the 2000 AD readership would have been more familiar. That said, though, it's still great. The squabbling characters are entertaining (Protoid, you bastard) and the story is gruesome, lively and interesting. At the same time, though, Milligan has a lot to say, while continuing and extending the connections of this series (and indeed Darkie's War) with Eastern culture. See that big hat worn by Kano, Tommy and various background characters, for instance? That's a lot like a sandogasa (from Japan's samurai era), although Tomoko was also suggesting bouzugasa and sugegasa.
It's still one of my favourites. Half of me doesn't want to acknowledge the later Bad Company stories, because this is the perfect ending.