Flesh (pkgd. w/ JD Meg #312) – Dan Abnett, Steve White

1 out of 5

Dan Abnett’s early 2000 AD writing is always interesting from our vantage 20 years on, given how we know how consistently prolific and consistently inventive and consistently tonally flexible and – most importantly… – consistently good and great Dan’s work can be, but of course it took some time to find that amazing rhythm, and a lot of that time, things weren’t so good or great. The ambition is always there, but it’s often beyond the capabilities of the comic page, or Dan’s understanding of how to use it during those earlier points. Sometimes it worked, but there were many times the imagined story got lost in way too much narration, overly complex setups, and winding plotting. 

All of that’s on dispay in his mid-90s foray into Flesh with Steve White. 

While it’s possible having more context into the reboot of this series beyond this floppy reprint would help – maybe the characters have preceding arcs? – the story seems contained, just poorly told. Dan hops between two protagonists in Flesh’s “time travel to dinosaur eras to procure dino meat” premise, but the hops never establish a why, whether in story or character. And then we get plot delivered to us in both an over-cooked – lots of dialogue – and under-cooked – lots of expectstions on the reader to catch up – fashion. So it’s a story that feels like it’s always in its introductory pages, and then by the time things happen, we’re in part 7 of 7. If the story had focused in just one protagonist – a scientist trapped and stranded in the past; a prisoner working Flesh duty in the future – it might’ve been easier to drum up some tension, but the roundabout way Chronocide exposes its plotty conspiracy never makes it seem like a big deal. 

Also not helping, unfortunately, is Gary Erskine’s art. While Gary’s character work is strong, and the colors are beautiful, he seems to struggle with the pacing, and when action occurs it’s underwhelming – things happen off screen, or with odd timing. The art is not bad, exactly, it just doesn’t enhance any potential in the story, and probably hinders it a bit further. 

The floppy includes Flesh 3000 AD by David Bishop, which I’m either dumb and don’t understand, or there was a printing error, as it’s only two pages and doesn’t feel complete; and then there are two Vector 13s by Dan, which are good – the wordiness works okay here – but I grumble anyway that these are filler for the floppy, and we need a collected Vector 13 and not just crumbs.