Preview: ‘Revere’ – Diving Into Digital Weirdness From John Smith & Simon Harrison

by Richard Bruton

The second of 2000 AD‘s digital-only collections of 2021 heads deep into the more weird and wonderful side of 2000 AD, with the wonderfully psychedelic fever dream of John Smith and Simon Harrison‘s Revere

From 1991 to 1994 and across three short series, John Smith and Simon Harrison‘s tale of ‘The Witch-boy of London’ was one of those wonderfully strange things that you get in 2000 AD from time to time, with Smith at his wonderfully weird best and Harrison’s artwork just dripping off the page in the oppressive heat of this brave new world of post-apocalyptic London that’s been hit hard by an environmental disaster.

Depending on your taste, this is one that’s either just hitting the right amount of over the top strangeness or an example of Smith going off on one. Personally, it’s one that just sits the right side of going too far.

Both creators are no longer at 2000 AD and you can’t help but think that’s a shame, particularly when you experience the full-blown madness of something like Revere. It is, frankly, just a little bit crazy, but in the very best way. Smith was always a writer who teetered on the brink of weirdly incomprehensible, but you always need writers who do that and for every strip that you scratch your head at and don’t get where Smith is going, there’s something such as Revere, where he’s just the right side of madness.

Yes, it’s a 90s thing, full of the somewhat overblown ideas and flowery language, but that was all the rage at the time. But once you accept that, you realise that there’s a really fascinating, really rather brilliantly constructed tale under all of the excess.

And with Harrison, it had an artist that burnt bright at 2000 AD, just not for long enough. Again, an artist many never liked, but Harrison’s art was an example of 2000 AD getting a new, radically different group of artists in to shake things up. His work on Strontium Dog may have been a mistake, far too radically different from Carlos Ezquerra to be accepted by fans, on a strip that didn’t have the implicit weirdness that would really cope with such a shift in artistic styles. You could compare it with John Hicklenton’s artwork on Nemesis, another radical shift but one that worked as the strip itself had already had a series of wildly different artists (O’Neill, Talbot et al) and was sufficiently different to cope with almost anything a new artist could throw at it.

It was a real shame that Harrison didn’t do more work on 2000 AD as, at his best here, what he put on the page was so fluid and visceral. There were plenty of times it didn’t work and plenty of examples you can pull out of pushing it too far, to the detriment of the storytelling, but you need to remember that the entire sum of Harrison’s artwork on 2000 AD is that of an artist at the very earliest stages of his career. He went on to do so much outside comics, eventually finding a home in fine art, but it would have been so good to see the sheer raw potential of Revere developed through the years. After all, 2000 AD has a long history of bringing on young artists with raw, undeveloped, incredible talent and seeing them blossom over the years.

As for Revere, it’s a three-act thing, beginning with something almost straightforward, a near-future dystopian Britain destroyed by environmental disaster of some uncertain origin, left barren and near desert-like, with a populous under the rule of an oppressive government, represented here by the obsessive Captain Kneale and his Lanzer troops, imposing their law and order in brutal fashion through the London boroughs.

Against him, there’s Revere, the ‘witch-boy’ of London, anti-establishment, a thorn in Kneale’s side, finding his way in this world where science and magic seemingly go hand-in-hand. Guided by the mysterious Hermit and his own mother, a disembodied head floating alongside the witch-boy dispensing advice and criticism in maternal fashion, Revere needs to find sense in this world, find his role and purpose. And that’s what book 1 is all about, setting up the character to take the next step, leading to a literal leap of faith in book two and utter madness in book three.

It’s in turns magnificent and maddening that Smith doesn’t reign it in just that little bit to really pull it all together, but there’s also a wonderful sense of just enjoying seeing the madness unfold across the pages, aided and abetted so well with Harrison’s artwork.

Revere, written by John Smith, art by Simon Harrison, letters by Annie Parkhouse and Jack Potter

Originally published in 2000 AD Progs 744-749, 809-814, 867-872

Released on Wednesday 3rd February in digital-only format.

Now, just to whet your appetite for the book… the first six pages, a Star Scan, and a couple of Harrison’s covers…

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