Just about to hits the shelves is a real blast from the past – a double-barrelled blast in the shape of Invasion! Part of Rebellion’s programme of classic 2000AD material, this takes me right back; Invasion was one of the original strips in Prog 1 of 2000AD. By today’s standards it might seem a pretty simple story, using a thinly veiled Russian invasion of Western Europe and Britain in the shape of the brutal ‘Volgans’, but it still delivers a bit of a guilty thrill in much the way that the old Commando Books of daring war stories do – go on, admit it, no matter how sophisticated you like to pretend your modern comics tastes are, there is still a part of you that will happily indulge in the uncomplicated and simple pleasures of the Commando Book.
(Early page from Invasion! with art from Jesus Blasco, Pat Wright and Sarompas, (c) Rebellion)
In some ways this was early 2000AD’s take on that kind of tale, but with the great Pat Mills at the helm (with help from Gerry-Finley Day) and art from the likes of Jesus Blasco and Eric Bradbury it seemed a notch above other British boy’s comics offering war tales. Following the death of his wife and child in the invasion truck driver Bill Savage leads a violent resistance to the Volgan occupation with his trademark double-barrel shotgun (making this the cool shooter-of-choice long before Guy Ritchie started making his cheeky Cockney gangster flicks) with a secret hideout on the Isle of Dogs.
(Cover to Invasion! with Cam Kennedy’s distinctive art, (c) Rebellion)
This was also one of the 2000AD’s first forays into the genre of Future War, being set in the year 1999. Yes, I know that is now in the past, but when you are a ten year old boy reading a comic in 1977 that seemed an unbelievably long way off and ideas like the Channel Tunnel (which Savage has to sabotage to prevent Volgan reinforcements coming in) was indeed still science fiction at that point. Still makes me giggle to see ‘King Charles’ and the Royal Family being evacuated to Canada in the opening chapters though, especiallly now we’ve celebrated his mother’s Golden Jubilee on the throne, but again in the year of 2000AD’s launch it was the Queen’s Silver Jubilee and no-one thought she’d still be wearing the crown come the far-distant and futuristic world of 1999. And yes, granted it is a bit simplistic by modern standards – for starters we simply weren’t as sophisticated back then (we still thought digital watches were a pretty neat idea and a two-tone Adidas T-shirt was the height of street fashion) and to be fair the comic was aimed at a much younger readership when it launched than it caters to now, so we shouldn’t judge it too harshly.
(The fall of London from Invasion! with art from Jesus Blasco, Pat Wright and Sarompas, (c) Rebellion)
In fact I have to confess, however guiltily, that I am really looking forward to re-reading all of Invasion (a belated sequel, Savage, is due from Rebellion this summer). There is the nostalgic component for readers of a certain age, naturally, but as I said it also still offers that simple and uncomplicated comics reading like a Commando Book and sometimes you do want to duck all the self-referential, post-modern stuff and just enjoy a good action-war yarn (go on, be honest). Invasion also provided a basis for further 2000AD strips to come in later years, not least Mills’ incredibly popular ABC Warriors, robots designed to fight when the Volgan war became too tough for mere humans (originally seen as a flashback in Ro-Busters before their own series, they would also later cross into Mills’ Nemesis strips, yet another link from this early and relatively simple yet influential strip). Over the years 2000AD would produce some incredible Future War genre tales, from the VCs through to the brilliant Rogue Trooper and the vicious and disturbing Bad Company, (both of those would inspire SF novelist and comics scribe Richard Morgan’s Takeshi Kovacs novels much later) as well as the terrific ABC Warriors, but Savage was the first.