THE VIGILANT / Writers: Simon Furman (The Vigilant: Maelstrom), Bruce Leslie (YAO – The Demon Touched: Home), Karl Stock (Death Wish: Kids Rule) and Aaron Stack (Steel Commando: In Between Wars)/ Artists: Simon Coleby (The Vigilant: Maelstrom), DaNi (YAO – The Demon Touched: Home), Henrik Sahlstrom (Death Wish: Kids Rule), Warwick Fraser-Coombe and Staz Johnson (Steel Commando: In Between Wars) / Letterers : Simon Bowland and Sam G / Publisher: 2000AD / Rebellion/ August 15th, 2018
First off, a confession- I had talked about the Vigilant in my latest part of ‘The History of British Comics‘ and assumed it would be more in the vein of Miracle Man. I argued that we had a history, as a nation, of seeing superheroes as cynically as possible. This meant that I figured that this bid by Rebellion to gather the various individual superheroes scattered through British comics history into one team was yet another musing on how supers are basically three steps from becoming reality snapping esoteric nightmares.
In the case of The Vigilant I was super wrong.
A little back story- Rebellion Developments are a British video game developer who bought up 2000AD in the year 2000 (appropriately) and now own the rights to not only all the characters from 2000AD, but also snatched up everything else published by Fleetway. It’s all a little boring and complicated, but the result is that 2000AD now also reprint a lot of classic British comics (including the ones I’ll be talking about in the next part of ‘History of British Comics’) and Rebellion can do new things with the characters it’s been sitting on for nearly two decades. Like gather the various superheroes created over the years and stick them together in one team, for reasons I’m sure have nothing to do with the fact that superheroes are kind of the big thing culturally now and so Britain kind of needs a team of its own.
To be absolutely fair- this whole team were first put together in Scream and Misty last year, but this is their first proper book dedicated to them.
I went into this expecting Watchmen or Miracle Man and got a proper, no nonsense, fun and thrilling superhero team. It had great introductions to the characters (would’ve liked to know more about Thunderbolt the Avenger though), got to see some fun action in various parts of London (heavy metal trolls in Camden was a nice touch) and plenty of set up for the future… If there will be more. I hope so.
Like most British comics, this is an anthology so along with the big team story line, we also get focuses on Death Wish, Yao and The Metal Commando. Yao is an interesting case in that she’s a relatively new character that first appeared in the aforementioned Misty and Scream (so that’s part of this universe as well?) and her story is definitely my favourite out of this book. If I’m going to compare it to a more familiar character, she’s Iron Fist via Dr Strange, but with the horror ramped up a notch.
In fact, given that this team were introduced first in a horror comic, I’m surprised I was so wrong about the lack of overall despair I felt reading this. There’s a kind of downbeat edge to Death Wish and a Man-out-of-time element to Metal Commando (he’s the Cap, if you want to make crude comparisons to Marvel), but other than that- it was way more fun than I was expecting. That’s not to imply this book is frivolous or throw-away; who knows where this is going to go? But for now, I appreciate this more straight-forward tone.
If I do have a few bones of contention- the action was a bit hard to follow from page to page, owing to a lack of expansive splash pages more familiar to superhero comics. Perhaps it is a hangover from 2000AD’s particular style, but most of the action is very contained. This isn’t a bad thing, but in the case of a superhero team it does feel a bit like they had lots of characters to introduce and not a lot of space to do so. I had to re-read some of the pages in Maelstrom to get a better idea of what was happening. The various different artists all do a great job on each story and it does seem a shame that everything was so cramped in- but that was born of necessity. This book needs to do well enough so that more can be released, so everyone was kind of bundled in. Not a deal breaker, it may be for a lot of older readers that they won’t need an introduction since they know these characters from childhood, but with any luck we’ll get more books and more room for each character to get a proper individual introduction (or re-introduction in some cases).
Verdict: 4 out of 5
I’m a thirty something British nerd-mum and wannabe author, fueled by tea, poor decision making and a need to be distracted. Cursed to watch favourite characters die and ships sink.