Wednesday, January 18, 2006


Bad Company, Goodbye Krool World

Bad Company: Goodbye, Krool World
Written by Peter Milligan
Art by Brett Ewins, Jim McCarthy and Steve Dillon
Published by 2000AD/DC Comics

Bad Company is a war comic. Yes, it may be dressed up in science fiction trappings (there’s a big green guy on the cover with a ludicrous gun), but it’s really just a war comic in space. They may be fighting dehumanised (well, never humanized) aliens who are killing for no apparent reason, but in British war comics the Germans (or whoever was being fought) were shown the same way.

In Bad Company Humanity is fighting the Krool, an alien species who delight in torture and killing, and who are attempting to wipe out all humans. If the Krool take the planet Ararat they’ll have a staging ground to attack Earth from, and the war on Ararat is going badly for Earth.

Danny Franks is a soldier on the planet Ararat. He and his fellow troops have already seen untold horrors and some are on the verge of giving up. Then the Krool unleash war zombies, humanity’s own dead turned into fighting machines for the Krool. The Earthians don’t want to shoot their friends and fellow soldiers, dead or not, so it looks like they’re finally going to be wiped out.

Then Kano and Bad Company appear. They’re the roughest, toughest soldiers that exist. Fighting behind enemy lines without official support they still do more damage then all the other Earth soldiers. They’re feared by the Krool, but they’re also feared by the Earth soldiers. Kano is a monster, incredibly tall, green (or possibly blue) skin and he doesn’t seem to feel any pain, only give it out. The rest of Bad Company aren’t much better, there’s a robot, a werewolf creature, a guy that looks like a ghoul, a guy with a carnivorous plant for an arm and more. Even those that at least look human are insane and think they’re fighting the nazis or who knows what.

Kano recruits Franks and the rest of the surviving soldiers with him. They’re part of Bad Company now. Kano leads them into Krool territory, testing them, using them as bait, throwing their lives away to advance his own plans. A lot of them die, but Kano doesn’t care, those that survive will replace the dead members of Bad Company.

Franks becomes friends with a member of Bad Company named Malcolm. He doesn’t seem to be as monstrous as Kano and the rest, but he’s still worse than the soldiers Franks is used to interacting with. Malcolm explains he’s been with Bad Company for less time than the others. He has yet to embrace the nihilistic death wish the others seem to carry.

So the question is: what will happen to Franks? Will he die (for this seems like a distinct possibility)? Will he escape Bad Company with at least some of his sanity intact? Or will he too become as bad as those he at first fears?

Bad Company is one of Peter Milligan’s first comics and it doesn’t disappoint. Milligan wrote an engaging and interesting comic with Bad Company. Are there problems? Yeah, the fact that each chapter is only four to seven pages long (as it was originally published in the anthology comic 2000AD) means it’s hard to develop all of the characters fully, meaning that with the high death count you know who some of those that die are going to be (ie. those that aren’t developed). Similarly being thrown into a story after it’s already started (who is Kano? Why are these people in Bad Company?) means that the story can be confusing at times. I think this confusion may have been created on purpose to put the reader into the place of Franks who doesn’t know what’s going on either.

Storywise Bad Company follows at least one (and perhaps several) older British war comics pretty closely. One of the most famous of the British war comics is Darkie’s Mob which was about a group of soldiers in Japanese occupied Burma in World War Two. The story is the same as Bad Company really, a group of soldiers are afraid they’re about to get killed when Darkie shows up. He crazy and impossibly strong and leads them on impossible and suicidal missions to harden them and kill a bunch of “Japs.” It’s even narrated by journal entries the same way Bad Company is. So was the idea of Bad Company stolen? I don’t know, perhaps all British war comics were written the same way and Bad Company just stole from all of them. Maybe it’s an homage. It’s still good though.

However, all of the previous is about Bad Company, what of the sequel Bad Company II also included in this volume? To put it bluntly, it’s not as good. Bad Company II takes the opposite approach from the first story in that it takes a long time to introduce the new characters. However, despite spending the time to introduce the characters, it still felt like I didn’t know who most of these characters were. Also whereas the first story was more of a “ohmyshitwhatishappeningarewegoingtosurvive?” story this one has more of a plot and goal, a plot and goal I find sort of boring.

The artwork is good in both parts, though I think I liked the art in part one better (one site said the art in part one had been stretched, if this is indeed the case, though I’m not sure if it is, I guess I like the stretched artwork better). Ewins and McCarthy make the monsters seem monstrous (including some nice homages to Frankenstein’s monster) and the humans seem humany. The storytelling is clear and the action sequences are well illustrated.

There’re a few things with the art that are pretty interesting. There’s a use of photocopied panels that’s used to zoom in or out of certain shots, giving the comic a cinematic style. While this is pretty common these days, I don’t know how common it was back when this comic was originally published in 1980s. There’s also the use of splashes at the beginning of each strip. Whereas in longer comics you might get a full page or double page splash at the beginning of the comic, Bad Company (which had only four to seven pages per chapter) usually has a half page or so splash. Sometimes they’re just pinups of one or more characters, and other times they’re part of the story, but generally I thought they worked well and helped create a consistency between each chapter of the story.

One last thing, this isn’t all of the Bad Company stories. There’re a few shorts and text stories that were published in annuals and specials around the same time as the original series (one of them is actually listed in the indicia, but not included in the actual book). Most (all) of these can be tracked down in an issue of the 2000ad Megazine from a few years ago. There was also a Kano solo series at some point in the 1990s that I don’t think has been reprinted anywhere, and there was a Bad Company 2002 story that was, apparently, terrible.

Despite the second part not being as good, overall I’d say Bad Company, Goodbye Krool World is worth picking up if you’re into war or sci-fi comics. It’s not as weird as other Milligan comics (though there is a scene where some of the characters get drunk after eating alcoholic mud…), but it still has solid storytelling and good art.

You can read Darkie’s Mob (and some other old British comics) here.

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