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Tuesday, March 27, 2007

"Complete" Alan Moore Future Shocks

Before this turns into the EC Weblog...
(which would have been a great idea for a separate weblog)

COMPLETE ALAN MOORE FUTURE SHOCKS was a 200 page book that came out last year, with 49 of the stories that Moore did for 2000 AD back in the 1980s, the ones that don't fit into his major series that had their own books (SKIZZ, HALO JONES and D.R. & QUINCH). Unfortunately it runs a bit short of the "Complete" of the title, with nine stories missing by my count, which they have to be aware of since you can find that out from their own website. A couple of the exclusions are both odd and frustrating, including his first 2000 AD story ("The Killer in the Cab") and his second, which is the first with major future collaborator Dave Gibbons ("The Dating Game"). Plus a bunch where he writes a few of the major non-Dredd 2000 AD characters, like Rogue Trooper, Ro-Busters and ABC Warriors (kind of odd that he never actually wrote Judge Dredd).

21 of the stories didn't appear in the two collections published in the 1980s, so for the most part were previously unreprinted or only seen in those ugly colour comics of 2000 AD reprints we used to get (TIME TWISTERS, etc). It's an interesting mix, a few very clever and with flashes of wit you expect from Moore, while on the other end a few are formulaic and dull.

Mister, Could You Use a Squonge? (prog 242, art by Ron Tiner)
A cute little story with some decent gags about some plastic jellyfish serving as "exo-brains" causing a plague of insanity on Earth, although the punchline depends on a rather improbable bit of staging that kind of ruins it.

A Second Chance (prog 245, art by Jose Casanovas)
Wow, this is probably the most disappointing story in this book. Fortunately only two pages, but come on, the last man on Earth after a nuclear war finds the last woman. His name is Adam and hers is... Mavis. Get it? You thought it would be Eve, but it's Mavis!

Twist Ending (prog 246, art by Paul Neary)
Goofball little story about a reporter trying to test out a theory that a science fiction writer is actually an alien, as suggested in one of his own stories.

Salad Days (prog 247, art by John Higgins)
Hinges on a really bad pun to update the already strained wordplay that makes the TWILIGHT ZONE episode "To Serve Man" work. Which is brilliant for a two-pager, and Higgins artwork sells it wonderfully.

The Beastly Beliefs of Benjamin Blint (prog 249, art by Eric Bradbury)
Almost works as a clever short story with the images taking on a whole new meaning in relationship to the text when you get to the last panel, except that the eye can't help but jump to the last panel early, giving it all away. With a different layout, a pageturn in the middle, it might have worked better.

All of Them Were Empty (prog 251, art by Paul Neary)
This is a similar "last panel flips everything around" twist, but works better since the image doesn't make it obvious what the twist is until you read the captions. Not as clever a twist, though.

The Bounty Hunters! (prog 253, art by John Higgins)
Excellent little story about the search for a fugitive who can disguise himself as anything, including a nice little resonance with Moore's later Green Lantern Corps story "Mogo Doesn't Socialize". And Higgins art again is a highlight, some of the best in the book.

Return of the Thing (prog 265, art by Dave Gibbons)
A really disappointing little thing. These two-pagers don't really seem to be Moore's strength.

Skirmish (prog 267, art by Dave Gibbons)
A slightly better two-pager, this one about an alien invasion thwarted by unlikely quarters. I particularly liked how the sound effects were used in this one, reminding me of those cute little sound effects Moore used in SWAMP THING.

The Writing on the Wall (prog 268, art by Jesus Redondo)
Back to form on the two-pagers, although I will say that I always like Redondo's artwork on these.

The Big Day (prog 270, art by Jesus Redondo)
A pretty decent little twist ending story about a prophet leading his people to the coming of their gods, marred by the fact that it's a two-page spread with some of the lettering and art almost lost completely in the binding, including the most clever bit of dialogue. I hate it when that happens.

No Picnic (prog 272, art by John Higgins)
And it happens again in this story. where it's also hard to figure out what order to read the panels in. Would a little bit of production to at least keep the lettering legible be too much to ask? Anyway, not a great story either, this one a theory on the origin of the Easter Island heads.

Dad (prog 329, art by Alan Langford)
I think I'm missing something in this one. So "Dad" is the computer, making this a 2001: A Space Odyssey riff? Or something else?

Buzz Off (prog 331, art by Jim Eldridge)
Odd little mostly silent story about house flies, who it turns out are little tiny flying ships. Very strange.

Look Before You Leap (prog 332, art by Mike White)
Another not-as-clever-as-it-wants-to-be short, this one about a hunter who catches a bird using a decoy, and then sees a woman in distress. You can see where that's going.

Einstein (prog 309, art by John Higgins)
Very nice little story about aliens coming to Earth in the far future, after humanity has wiped itself out, and using their technology to bring back key humans from history as part of an intergalactic zoo. They include two Einsteins among the returned, who together figure out what's going on and lead a massive escape and uprising. The dialogue between the two Einsteins as they try to figure out how they were brought back (and why they're coloured blue) is an inspired bit of writing.

Going Native (prog 318, art by Mike White)
A kind of predictable time travel story, with the title pretty much giving it away when you found out the premise is a time-traveller gone back to find out what the missing link in human evolution was. The scripting really sells it, though, with the whole thing being told in narration without dialogue, and a nice sense of nostalgia and melancholy.

The Startling Success of Sideways Scuttleton (prog 327, art by John Higgins)
I mentioned this story once before from a previous reprint, and I still really like the scripting as a good showcase for Moore's gifts in that area. The artwork looks much better in this printing, too. I decided to check this time, and indeed one pound coins were introduced around the time of the 1983 publication of this story, so that explains the ending.

Hot Item (prog 278, art by John Higgins)
This is what Moore calls a "list" story in his introductions in the 1980s reprint books (sadly not included in this one), where he takes an absurd situation and runs down a variety of equally absurd consequences of it. In this case its a future where entropy has run wild, and the energy of the universe is running down, so everything is much slower. A lot of clever little sight gags and science so bad it should be criminal, and a really goofy ending.

Dr. Dibworthy’s Disappointing Day (prog 316, art by Alan Langford)
Decent little story which really plays well with the comic form, since the text itself is very plain and simple, while the real story is going on in the pictures, as we see shifts in timelines that the text ignores.

Abelard Snazz: The Return of the Two-Storey Brain (prog 209, art by Mike White)
Snazz is a character in eight stories that finish off this book. Seven of them were in one of the previous books, but this one wasn't included then because Moore later discovered he'd unconsciously lifted some ideas from R.A. Lafferty. Apparently the compilers of this collection didn't mind so much, so here it is. Anyway, Snazz is a character based on the disconcerting image of a man with two rows of eyes, on the logic that that means two brains, but a tendency to come up with solutions to problems that are overly complicated and only cause more problems. He's a really maddening character, and I'm not quite sure I like him, but there's goofy stuff in every story, and this is no exception. In particular I liked the use of a panel super-imposed on a giant sound effect in a few places here.

So a decent collection overall, even with the omissions and production problems on a few stories, and well worth picking up even if you do have the previous books (all of those 28 stories are also here, with highlights including "The Hyper-Historic Headbang" (Alan Davis), "The Wages of Sin" (Bryan Talbot), "Chrono-Cops" (Dave Gibbons), "The Reversible Man" (Mike White), "The Last Rumble of the Platinum Horde" (John Higgins), "They Sweep the Spaceways" (Garry Leach), "Grawks Bearing Gifts" (Ian Gibson), and many more. Also included are the covers for the two of the tales which got the cover slot and short biographies of Moore and the various artists.

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