Bad City Blue
By Alan Grant & Robin Smith
Digital Edition available from the 2000AD webshop.
Review by Luke Williams
Launched in the 9th birthday edition of 2000AD that was Prog 468, “Bad City Blue” is a nihilistic 10 part action adventure about a man of few words and a big gun (s). A one off serial written by Alan Grant, writing as Craig Lipp, disguising the fact that he and John Wagner were writing almost everything for IPC in the mid eighties (in Prog 468 alone Grant was writing or co-writing 4 of the 5 strips) and drawn by then art editor, Robin “The Bogie Man” Smith.
The titular Blue is a “Button Man” (before Wagner and Arthur Ranson took the name for Harry Exton some years later), an enforcer and trouble-shooter in the urban dystopia that is Bad, or rather Bader, City, an experimental self contained domed city built into an asteroid.
Blue is directed by the city authorities to take out the unwanted elements of the population, the gang leaders and “slum scum” protecting the decent citizens of the decaying habitat. But on his latest job, Blue’s target tells him that he’s not protecting anything anymore, that all the decent citizens have left the city to rot, and Blue begins to question what is actually going on in Bader City and what he is working for.
2000AD does these kind of strips well; a standalone story, 50 pages and done. The “mystery on the colony” in space plot has been done a few times since this (most notably in “Brink”), but this is well executed. There is no flab here, no fuss, no bother, very efficient story telling with a sprinkling of social commentary from Alan Grant.
The terse, almost Chandler like narration propels the plot speedily and without outstaying its welcome. Robin Smith isn’t what you would call a fan favourite, his figure work can be a little stiff and facial expressions can lack emotion, but his storytelling is up to the job and his action sequences are dynamic.
Not a stone cold classic by any means, but a great action adventure story and unusually for Grant short on any sort of laughs. Rebellion’s policy of digitally reprinting strips that they couldn’t justify dead tree publishing is laudable (and no doubt lucrative).It makes previously difficult to collect cult hits easily obtainable (especially if you can’t get the relevant Extreme Edition issue). It’s amazing to think that despite the work rate of Grant and writing partner Wagner in this period that they could maintain this kind of quality.