Pat Mills2000 AD
ABC Warriors: Hellbringer Part I
Medium: comic
Year: 1994
Writer: Pat Mills, Tony Skinner
Artist: Kevin Walker
Country: UK
Keywords: 2000 AD
Format: 2000 AD 904-911
Website category: Comics UK
Review date: 19 March 2022
It's brilliant. Pat Mills is on top outrageous form, while Kevin Walker's painted art can't be bettered.
The ABC Warriors are one of those ancient 2000 AD icons who've been running almost since the beginning. Series like that can be variable. Rogue Trooper and Sam Slade: Robo-Hunter never did much for me, for instance, although I should read more of their early adventures before passing judgement. This particular one's actually a spin-off of a Starlord strip from 1978. (IPC launched that magazine as a sister title to 2000 AD, but their two SF titles were simply splitting the market. Starlord was actually the better-selling of the two.)
The parent series, Ro-Busters, was a satirical Pat Mills story about a commercial rescue organisation that employed sentient robots because the humans didn't care if a robot died. Hammerstein, Ro-Jaws and Mek-Quake started there. The ABC Warriors came later and were war robots designed to survive Atomic, Bacterial and Chemical warfare. This brought in other members like Deadlock, Joe Pineapples, Blackblood, Mongrol and Morrigun.
Also, here, everyone except Hammerstein is an utter bastard.
Hammerstein's good and honourable, so Blackblood cut off his limbs, welded him to a workbench and has spent the last five years torturing him. Blackblood believes in treachery. He's currently making weapons. "The new batch of orphan shredder shrapnel mines, for instance. Then I've got orders for the widow-maker scythe missiles. Ah, the customer for the flesh-boiler incendiary grenades. The usual payment, sir."
"You're weird, Blackblood. Are you sure you don't want money?"
"No, just a detailed video of their use. Particularly on unarmed civilians, hospitals, that kind of thing. My friend and I like to watch them on long winter evenings and discuss them. Well, I discuss them... he just shakes and makes growling noises."
What's more, Blackblood told everyone what he was doing. Anyone could have rescued Hammerstein... but they couldn't be bothered and jovially acknowledge this when we meet them. Deadlock helps Hammerstein escape and gives him the mission of reforming the ABC Warriors to fight the Terran Empire and its new weapon: Hellbringer. This is crucial for the future of the galaxy. As Deadlock explains over the psychic link, "I am working day and night, on the front line of psychic defence, desperately searching for a way to defeat the Terran Empire. I hope I can find it in time. As much as I'd like to help you, my work here is too vital to the cause."
(He says this while partying with robo-bimbos.)
Joe Pineapples is working for the Terran Empire, i.e. the bad guys. He doesn't care. He just likes being the best sniper in the galaxy and killing people. Blackblood convinces him to join up again for a childish reason.
Mek-Quake is very, very stupid and thinks he's gone green. He's recycling. Or, more precisely, he's ripping, tearing and dismembering. "That not pollutants. That just smoke."
Eventually, these misfits and others assemble at the Kollege of Khaos, the nerve centre of anarchic rule. What ancient grimoires of arcane lord must be contained here? "I don't know," replies Deadlock. "This is a Kollege. No one here can read. I certainly can't." (Note: that's probably all lies, since this is Deadlock.) The Kollege of Khaos has some ludicrously juvenile notions about education, economics, etc. that would sound implausible to a five-year-old, but Mills doesn't believe in stopping halfway with his satires.)
Part II is in 2000 AD 964-971, but that's just another of many, many instalments of ABC Warriors. This particular one's great. It's Pat Mills at full blast and has jaw-dropping art, thanks to Kevin Walker. Bloody hell.