Monday, October 23, 2017

Scream! and Misty Special

The Scream! and Misty Special from Rebellion is an attempt to reignite interest in characters from the bygone days of comics. It isn't the first time a company has looked back at the glory days of British adventure titles and tried to tap into some of its most fondly recalled characters. The Classic Action Holiday Special (1990) and 2000AD Action Special (1992) are the parents of the format, with new tales based on popular strips. The bastard child is DC Comics' Albion (2005-06) which imagines all the old characters are from the same universe and knew each other. That child is now locked in an attic. We don't speak of that child.

Which is ironic, because Rebellion's latest attempts to revive old characters began with Monster from Scream! in which a horribly disfigured Uncle Terry was kept hidden behind the locked door at the top of the stairs.

There is no "Monster" in the pages of Scream! and Misty Special, but the spirit of those old specials haunts the new one. Older readers may pick it up out of nostalgic curiosity, but younger readers may wonder what's going on, because these comics date back to the mid-1980s and there's a good chance that the kids of the original readers have grown up not reading weekly anthology comics. It makes not including a story about the one character who has had a recent outing a little inexplicable.

The strips that do make the cut are a mixed bag. Let's start with the best. "The Return of Black Max: Blood Moon" (Kek-W [Nigel Long] & Simon Coleby) could have been pulled straight from the pages of Misty. Young girl, left to her own devices by absent mum, discovers grandads old Nazi memorabilia. Inexplicably, she begins suffering weird dreams and is then transported to another dimension where she is confronted by a Luger-wielding German airman. But Von Klorr is almost a McGuffin as the horror of the story is in its blood and leathery wings and the final note of utter uncertainty.

"The Return of the Sentinels" (Hannah Berry & Ben Willsher) is another horrifying story of a girl passing into an alternate world and sees a vision of hell that the Sentinels – two large tower blocks that locals avoid – might be a gateway to. That it deals with the current rise is racial and religious tensions makes it by far the most current of the stories here and the brief glimpse we have here will leave you wanting to know more about the rise of a future where ... well it looks like the Isle of Man has turned fascist.

Having favourites amongst the contents doesn't mean that the other strips are in any way not worth the price of entry. There's a very good episode of "The Thirteenth Floor" (Guy Adams, John Stokes, Frazer Irving), which cleverly segues from old-style adventure comics to what could be from a modern 2000AD special. Max, the cutting-edge AI from the original, seems to be having a mid-life crisis but offers up some suitably horrible punishments to some bullies while recruiting a new human helper.

"The Dracula File" (Grainne McEntee & Tristan Jones) is a continuation of the Scream! strip. Dracula, in the guise of Dr Arthur Culerman, is a guest for dinner who plans to turn his hosts into a bite to eat, while "Fate of the Fairy Hunter" (Alec Worley & DaNi [Danai Kilaidoni]) is a brief horror tale of the kind that Misty filled its pages.

I imagine when asked what lessons he could learn from the Titanic, the editor of Scream! and Misty Special suggested fewer lifeboats. Thus we arrive at the only sour note in the magazine, "Death Man: The Gathering" (The Feek [Keith Richardson] & Henry Flint) which learns no lessons from Albion and tries to force disparate characters into a single universe. That disaster was only a decade ago... it was terrible then and, funnily enough, retreading the same ground with a pool of even more obscure characters than Albion was able to draw from is terrible all over again.

I'm not sure whether the Scream! and Misty Special is intended to be an annual Halloween event or just a one-off extended advert for various Rebellion releases – it's no coincidence that The Dracula File has just been released, "The Sentinels" is one of the two stories in the latest Misty Volume 2 release and 2018 will see volumes of The Thirteenth Floor and Black Max. But if they can expand on the promising beginnings of "The Return of Black Max" and "The Return of the Sentinels" I will definitely be back for more, wherever they appear.

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