By Alex Worley, DaNi & Simon Bowland, Andrea Bulgarelli, SG, Doug Graves & Vincenczo Riccardi
From The Treasury of British Comics
Review by Luke Williams
Rebellion continue to raid their archive of IP. As much as it might be heresy, some
of these old characters should be fondly remembered, but that’s it, just remembered, some characters are best left in the past. Nostalgia isn’t what it used to be etcetera.
Black Beth on the other hand is obscure, featuring in a sole Scream Summer special after the regular comic had gone the way of the rest of the newsagent comic rack. Even then, it was an inventory story from the 70s that had languished in a drawer for 10 years before it saw the light of day. So, there’s no history to it. There is little expectation, few would be offended by a new interpretation , and that is an advantage to the creative team, and to new readers.
This is a US format one shot, featuring three strips, two of which star Black Beth. Black Beth is straight fantasy, Conan crossed with Sinbad. (Conbad? Sinnan?) featuring the titular female sword wielding freebooter roaming her world, hacking, slaying and righting wrongs.
In the lead story, she and her blind companion, Quido, are sent on a mission to dispatch Anis Amuun, a sorceress threatening the city of Al-Kadesh. Beth and Quido throw their lot in with a local group who also have “things to discuss” with Amuun. Cue lots of swords and sorcery action.
This is nothing new, but it is very well executed. Black Beth has been a highlight of the Scream / Misty specials and the extra page count allows the creative team to stretch out a bit. Alec Worley’s plot zips along propelled by some suitably melodramatic dialogue. The star of the show is DaNi’s dark and expressive art, colouring for atmosphere rather than authenticity and is all the better for it.
Beth’s second appearance is in “Fairy Tales”. Again scripted by Alex Worley but it’s less successful, perhaps because it is only 4 pages and Andrea Bulgarelli’s art, though effective, is not as distinctive as the feature strip and is weirdly anachronistic compared to the rest of the comic. Bulagrelli’s cover on the other hand is stunning, and demands a whole strip in that style.
The final part of the package is a Death Man strip, a more recent creation and not a “heritage” character. “When the Man Comes To Town” is written by “Doug Graves” with art by Vincenzo Riccardi, doing a Henry Flint impression. That may sound like a back handed compliment, but it’s lovely stuff, dynamic, colourful and vibrant. The story of Death Man tracking down a figure from Arthurian legend is a little silly and throwaway, but fun. That’s what comics ought to be all about.
The marketing behind this is a little odd. Do American sized comics sell better? British comics are traditionally larger, but clearly Rebellion are trying to get some traction with this character in the American market and UK comics shops. On the other hand they are also trying to appeal to the nostalgia market by promoting it under the Scream banner, despite there being very little connection with that long dead comic. Does Scream really have that much of a following for it to have that much effect on sales?
Rebellion’s series of specials is the company dipping their toe in the water. They continue to publish, so they must be successful. It’s a scattershot approach and it’s frustrating following storylines that have 6 months to a year breaks. It seems the water is still too cold for them to immerse themselves completely with a full blown series.