Ready for a blast of classic old-school 2000AD? Never-before-reprinted Return to Armageddon is one of those classic thrills that could be from any boys’ adventure comic of the 60s, 70s or early 80s, before comics grew up to become graphic novels.
It’s a sprawling epic that would have kept 2000AD readers coming back for more over nine months or so back in 1980-81. Writer Malcolm Shaw was an old hand at these ongoing adventure stories, working on girls and boys comics from the 60s. Every three- or four-page episode has to reintroduce the characters, move the story on and end on a cliffhanger. The writing is not sophisticated but it’s a fun good-versus-evil story that packs a lot of narrative in.
The hero (named, amusingly, Amtrak – nothing to do with the US transport network!) has to find and defeat his twin brother. Both have been cloned from a being known as the Destroyer, with Amtrak getting all the good characteristics and his brother getting the bad.
The journey takes him around the universe, and along the way he gets turned into a freak whose ‘body defies all logic, all known physical laws’; trapped as a monster in a circus sideshow; entombed in concrete; and taken out of time for thirty years as his body slowly regenerates. Later he meets some of the most powerful beings in the universe, rescues the love of his life, Eve, and eventually returns home – to Armageddon. Phew!
Like Shaw, Spanish artist Jesus Redondo worked on a number of UK (as well as US and Spanish) titles during the sixties. His loose drawing style is deceptive, as there’s a lot of detail, but the line work seems to flow with movement. Redondo is able to handle the Star Trek-influenced early episodes as easily as the mines of a destroyed Earth, but it’s his characters that are particularly strong, from evil scientists to circus freaks. Redondo’s Destroyer is a classic devil! It’s no surprise that the movie Flash Gordon came out during the strip’s run, and before long Redondo and Shaw cure the hero of his ugliness and amusingly give Amtrak a Sam Jones makeover!
The scanned artwork reproduces well on the high quality paper, it’s just a shame that the pages have been reduced in size, like a lot of recent 2000AD reprints, to fit the volumes into a standard bookshelf collection size.