ABC Warriors Mek Files Volume 4: Meknificently Surprising 2000AD Action!

by Richard Bruton

I never got The ABC Warriors. Not until now. I’ve been reading 2000AD off and on all my life, and pretty much every week for the last eight years. Yet The ABC Warriors just didn’t do it for me. I didn’t get on with Pat Mills‘ writing, too staccato, never enough (seemingly) going on. And Clint Langley‘s painted, computer effects laden artwork just didn’t sit well with me.

But, well…here’s The ABC Warriors Mek Files Vol 04. This is the point where Clint Langley joined the series as regular artist, with “The Volgon War” parts 1 and 2 from back in 2005 and 2007. And I absolutely take back everything I ever said about The ABC Warriors. Now I get it, in all its over the top glory. And I apologise to Mssrs Mills and Langley for not getting the strip earlier.

Having read The ABC Warriors Mek File Vol 04 as one complete volume, one continuous story, it’s such a better experience than I’ve had recently with reading it week in, week out. I have to concede, quite happily, that I was totally, completely, utterly wrong about the comic.

It’s a bloody great collection that works beautifully as a collection. And more than that, given the structure of this volume, it actually serves as a splendid jumping on point for the series. Obviously, all that has gone before, especially given the artists involved (Kevin O’Neill, Dave Gibbons, Simon Bisley, Kev Walker, and the criminally underrated SMS), you should really check those out too. But here, with Langley the sole artistic voice, it all just gels perfectly.

(ABC Warriors: The Mek Files Vol 04. Telling tales of the past, painful, telling, revealing, and brilliantly done.)

Right then. A refresher. ABC stands for Atomic, Bacterial, Chemical. Robots designed to fight in the place of humans. Mass produced mechanical cannon fodder. The team of ABC Warriors are a ragtag mech collection of renegades, weirdos, and outcasts. Battle-scarred and sometimes broken, they’ve saved the Earth, found religion, and been sent to Mars to “increase the peace” between warring human and Martian factions.

To give you an idea of the characters… here are the bios from the start of the Mek Files Vol 4:

In Mek Files Volume 04 we’re accompanying the Warriors across Mars, on their way to recruit the latest mech to the team. That journey takes them all of this volume and more. But along the way, they tell tales, of their individual experiences in the Volgon War on Earth.

And as they tell those stories, there are mysteries revealed, betrayals realised, and connections made. It’s something that works beautifully well in one collection, all the disparate strands pulled together expertly by Mills. And as I was reading it, having the story gel for me made Langley’s art come into far better focus. Immersed in the world of mechanical nightmares, his computerised paintings made sense, and I realised I was wrong about that as well.

(Hammerstein’s memories of the Volgon War come flooding back in ABC Warriors Mek Files Vol 4.)

In between framing sequences onboard the journey, we revisit the Volgon War, seen through the eyes and experiences of Hammerstein, Mongrol, Joe Pineapples, Blackblood, and Deadlock.

Each Mech tells their tale in turn, building up an impression of both sides of the war. And it’s never a pretty sight. First up is Hammerstein’s tale of his “boys” brutally thrown into the war as fodder for the Volg’s guns. And alongside all that, Mills explains the political backstory, of the US-Volgan conflict, and its familiar tale of war for oil. The politics is overt certainly, but it fits in so much better in the collection than in weekly installments.

Mongrol’s tale tells an origin of sorts, his destruction and rebuild at the hands of his human saviour. Deadlock tells of Mek independence and thought, going against human-kind. Then there’s Joe Pineapples, unbearably cool assassin. Sent into Russia to assassinate the Volgan leader Volkhan, he comes up against Blackblood and fails for the first time. But it’s the mechanics of him taking his shot that is so very good. An ultra-modern update of a classic Fleming Bond tale, the lone gunman setting up. Just with a tech twist, cannibalising a mech cab driver bot to get weaponry and GPS tracking to attempt an impossible shot. Perfection really.

(Joe Pineapples, ready to take the shot. Amazing what you can make from a cab-driver.)

And as for Blackblood’s tale, well the arch-betrayer was always going to cause ructions amongst his teammates with this one. Yes, he might have been reprogrammed, but the glee he takes in telling his tale of execution and deception is pure malice.

And his meddling, the agitation, the constant interference in the lives of the ABC Warrior’s lives sets up future events as well. The devious nature of Blackblood fully on display when he’s contacting Mekquake, dumped in the Mek-asylum, about his ABC replacement…

And as for that replacement? Well, that’s another element of the story that comes to the fore in the collected version. The mystery Mek continues to crop up through all of the ABC Warriors’ recollection tales. And it’s beautifully done, each appearance perfectly underplayed, allowing the reader to connect the dots.

So with these individual tales of the Warriors and the Volgans, everything connects, everything slowly but surely comes together. The tales of the past feed into the future, the common mek-thread keeps appearing like the proverbial bad penny.

ABC Warriors The Mek Files Vol 04 really is a great collection from 2000AD. The previous ABC Warriors volumes are worthy of your attention certainly, especially given the artistic talent within, but this collection is the first time I’ve really “got” the series. It functions both as a continuation of the rich history of the comic, but also acts as a perfect jumping on point. Everything clicks, everything works. And I’m more than happy to admit my previous failure to connect with the story is all my fault. This is a perfect point to join in with Mills and Langley’s epic tale.

It has so much in the volume; Mills has never been one to shy away from politics, using his sci-fi tales to reflect and comment upon current issues. At times it feels heavy-handed, but not here, not in one collected reading. There’s time for seriousness, time for message, time for action, with Langley’s art depicting each very well. And there are even moments of arch-comedy. Such as this, where Blackblood’s Mek origins lead to a ridiculous, and hilarious misunderstanding. It’s all to do with human language, the simple expression “the general public” totally lost upon his language circuits…. a wonderful misunderstanding…

(Who is “General Public”? Poor Blackblood is destined to be forever confused by that one.)

ABC Warriors: The Mek Files 04, published by Rebellion. Written by Pat Mills, art by Clint Langley, letters by Simon Bowland.