Thursday, 17 February 2011

Review - Mega City Undercover

Writer - Andy Diggle & Rob Williams

Art - Jock & Simon Coleby

Published by - Rebellion

Sometimes it takes a special kind of judge to work the mean streets of Mega-City One. Meet Lenny Zero and Aimee Nixon, two under-cover judges who work the lowest levels of the Big Meg, mixing with mob bosses and murderers alike.

So there you have it that’s Rebellions nice little blurb from the back of Mega City Undercover but it misses out one vital character who bestrides this collection like a mad hirsute colossus and that dear reader is none other than Dirty Frank.

But before we get to Dirty Frank lets take it right back to the beginning, let’s get back to Andy Diggle editor of the Megazine hastily trying to pull together the 10th Anniversary edition and running short of funds. Diggle had commissioned Frank Miller to do the 10th anniversary cover, however Miller was expensive and Diggle taking a chance wrote a ten page unpaid story entitled Lenny Zero. Running it past a couple of 2000ad hacks (John Wagner was one), Diggle eventually figured it was time to ‘publish and be damned’, but now he had to find an artist. Luckily Diggle knew just where to look, a young artist had been submitting art to 2000ad for a while but his work had been passed over by David Bishop, that artist went by the name Jock and the rest is comic’s history.

Lenny Zero is a tough cop working as part of the Wally Squad on the mean streets of Mega-City One. When Lenny’s cover is blown by mob boss Little Ceaser Piccante a disaffected Zero decides to turn the tables on the mob and the Justice Department and steal Piccante’s creds, well that’s his plan but as always there is a sting in the tail.

Mega City Undercover collects all three of the Lenny Zero stories printed in the Megazine. These are smart, slick crime capers by Diggle, full of double crosses and betrayals. Zero is a complex character, a world weary under cover judge who just wants out of the system, to live with the woman he loves and he will do pretty much anything to achieve this goal. However in my opinion the real star of these three stories is Jock’s art, which is quite simply staggering at some points along the way, the splash page of Zero and Dredd is a case in point. As the stories progress you can actually see Jock’s artwork improve and the final story Wipeout looks fantastic and the final payoff between Lenny and Caesar is very clever piece of writing by Diggle.

If Andy Diggle’s Lenny Zero was a polished slick crime caper, Rob Williams Low Life is its smelly dirty cousin from the wrong side of town.

Low Life takes the idea of the Wally Squad and plants it firmly in the gutter of Mega-City One. Written by Rob Williams, who also credits the input of artists Henry Flint and Simon Coleby in its creation, Low Life is a seedy ugly, slice of life in the Big Meg. The main protagonist in the early stories is Amee Nixon a hard baked undercover judge who is the ultimate liar. Nixon can beat any lie detector test which made her perfect fodder for the Wally Squad.

Next in Williams’ Wally Squad line up is perhaps one of the greatest (in my opinion anyway) 2000ad characters Dirty Frank, a judge who has been under cover for so long he had quite clearly gone insane. With his penchant for referring to himself in the third person “What Dirty Frank does with his own body behind closed doors is his own business” and stylistically based on Alan Moore you know you’re going to be on to a winner.

The stories with Dirty Frank in are genuinely laugh out loud funny, in particular my favourite which see’s Frank going under cover at a battle of the bands contest as the long believed dead rock legend Nick ‘Two Gerbils’ Rasputin. Genius.

Rob Williams Low Life is the real star of this collection for me. In Amee Nixon Williams creates a character of real depth. in her first story Paranoia, Nixon is pushed to the absolute limit of sanity as she is framed for various murders. With the finale flipping everything that has come before Amee has a difficult if not impossible decision to make and the last page is a real gut punch and more than a little sad.

As you would expect from Henry Flint the art in the early stories is superb with Nixon making a particularly striking protagonist. But not to out done Simon Coleby is no slouch with the pencils either although his style is different from Flint’s his work fits the Low Life world perfectly and his Dirty Frank looks awesome.

Mega-City Undercover is a great collection from Rebellion and works well for both portions of the book. On the one hand it’s a great look at the start of the Diggle/Jock partnership, on the other you get Rob Williams brilliant Low Life. In my book that’s a win win situation and if you’re interested in picking it up Mongoose Publishing are practically giving the book away for £2.99 here

Rating 5 out of 5 -  I would seriously give it more if I could but I’m sticking to my 5 rating. I really do love this book and for £2.99 you haven’t got any excuses for not getting it in.

1 comment:

  1. I wasn't a big fan of Low Life. I could take it or leave it, but those last few stories with D'Israeli have been nothing short of staggering. Dirty Frank is indeed up there with the best. I was never a regular Megazine reader until 2002, so i missed those Lenny Zero stories, though i might give this a whirl sometime to reread the Low Life's.