4 out of 5
2000 AD has published several specials over the last few years that have mined characters / titles from their purchased IPC archives; some of that is new material in the spirit of the old, and some of that has been reprints. ‘The Vigilant’ was a feature in some of these specials, along with two of its own, and is now concluding its current storyline in this issue of The Meg. The premise for Vigilant was to collect some odds and ends characters and tie them together as a sort of superhero team. While I haven’t read any of those specials (sorry, y’all, my budget is already stretched thin with the weekly and monthly mags!), I was definitely curious to check out the various characters’ origins – their original appearances – as collected / reprinted in the floppy.
The opening story of ‘Dr. Sin’ wasn’t very promising, with a wayward story and rather poorly paneled art – and it wasn’t really an origin, either, and, uh, didn’t do a great job of highlight who Dr. Sin was to new readers… but the remainder of the features here are a hoot, from Leopard of Lime Street’s blatant Spider-Man rip-off (bitten by a radioactive leopard, for real…) to the tongue-in-cheek villainous antics of Von Hoffman. The former goes so overboard with its goofy tone that it just works, and flies with its silly concept from page to page, while the latter, similarly, is just so weirdly over-the-top – a post-jail Nazi scientist creates a gas that causes animals to grow giant and allow him to control them – that it overcomes its text-stuffed pages with pure kookiness. Inbetween these are some truly untouchable gems: Death Wish features a disfigured race car driver who pledges to try stunts sure to kill him, as he’s no longer a reason to live without his handsome looks; Steel Commando is like a radio-controlled Iron Man with a doofus at the controls; Dr. Mesmer is an inspired setup with a cackling archeologist who pledges revenge against, like, other archeologists with his newly discovered mummies.
All of these strips show off some wonderful creativity that blows past their sometimes derivative or hinky setups, an amazing artistry. It’s fun to check these out, and definitely makes me consider some of the full reprint sets Rebellion has been putting out.