ABC Warriors feels like a stalwart series of the 2000AD stable, so it’s a little surprising to find that the first two series collected in this book have a nine-year gap between them, with the first series from 1979 and the second not following until 1988. Pat Mills’ concept of robot war-heroes with human feelings is an interesting subject, but perhaps the first series didn’t do enough to give them the same level of popularity as other conceptually similar future-war series like Rogue Trooper.
To a certain extent, through the harsh filter of retrospect, you can see why. The first series in this book is an introduction to the robotic characters, but is slow paced: just too ponderous to grab you by the nuts and bolts. It perhaps leans too heavily on Mills’ anti-war messages, and the fact that certain characters don’t make it into the team for their second outing perhaps questions whether they should have been included in the first place.
The art here is standard 2000AD for the time, with names like Carlos Ezquerra and Dave Gibbons gracing the series with their presence, but the overall effect of so many different artists makes it disjointed and less engaging.
I have fond memories of the second series from the days when I read it on its initial printing. It introduced me to a new artist called Simon Bisley, whose dark, evocative style was unlike anything I’d seen before. Sadly he isn’t the only artist on this series so this, too, is artistically disjointed, though SMS has a similar style that doesn’t jar too badly when collected like this. However, you can see both artists are raw talents here — Bisley focuses on character but the blank backgrounds leave everything feeling rushed.
The story, in which the ABC Warriors must battle to destroy a black hole in order to save the world is character driven again, but their characters don’t have enough dimension to make us truly care about them.
So, while this book is indispensable to the myth-building of ABC Warriors, it’s actually a dreary read by modern standards. If you want to capture Pat Mills at his 2000AD best, consider Nemesis or Slaine instead.