Bad Company: Goodbye Krool World
Originally published in 2000ad progs 500-519, 548-557, 576-585 and 601
Available in the UK now.
Due for release in the USA January 2011
Review by Stewart Loud
This graphic novel collects together one of my all time favourite comic story lines. Originally published in the UK comic 2000ad in the mid 80’s I first read it when it was re-printed in classic 2000ad monthly in the early nineties (comics which I read twice and then lost). Then again a few years ago when i spotted this graphic novel in my local comic shop. When I discovered Rebellion were planning to release the book across the Atlantic in the US, I thought it was as good an excuse as any to read it again and give it a review. Having read it 3 times before and knowing how it all ends in the mind blowing climax of the story I wasn’t sure how much I would enjoy reading through it all again but I was every bit as engrossed in this dark, nightmarish tale of future war and horror as I was the first time I read it over 16 years ago.
This is an absolutely fantastic example of old school science fiction, packed with atmosphere, great characters and an incredible amount of original ideas baring in mind it was written almost 25 years ago! Throughout the book you’ll see zombies being used as a weapon, Organic and sentient spacecraft, vast alien races being controlled by a collective hive mind and you’ll see humankind go from a battle for a single planet to the very brink of extinction. If they made a film of this now (something I’d love to see but very unlikely) everyone would say how unoriginal it was when in fact it was way ahead of its time.
The story is told from the perspective of Danny Franks, a “Raw” new recruit in the Earth army 1st colony division stationed on the planet Ararat fighting against the horrific Krool empire. The Krool are a race of vicious, utterly evil, hideous aliens. They cannot be bargained or reasoned with. There’s nothing they even seem to want from mankind other than victims for their cruel experiments and torture fetishes.
Never let the Krool take you alive is the advice from anyone who’d fought against them long enough to know what they do with prisoners. In other words they are the “bad guys”. Absolutely no moral ambiguity about that. They torture and mutilate any other beings they come into contact with for no other reason than they enjoy it and are every bit as monstrous in appearance as they are in spirit and you’ll learn to hate them just as much as the books characters do.
Danny is forcibly recruited into the ranks of Bad Company (an unofficial group of soldiers who operate independently behind enemy lines) after they save his unit from an enemy attack at the stories beginning and has to learn fast to survive in the harshest of combat conditions as Bad Company take him behind enemy lines on their continuing and very personal mission to hurt the enemy. A mission which ends up taking him all across Ararat and eventually the galaxy as the epic scale of the Krool threat is slowly revealed.
The way in which Danny’s character changes and grows, not just mentally, but physically is astonishingly well done as he slowly changes from a fresh faced rookie into a hardened, brutal fighter end eventually into an almost burnt out shell, struggling to keep hold of his humanity in the midst of all the horror he experiences. By the books end you’ll want to flick back to the beginning to remind yourself what he used to look like. The best modern comparison I can make to the process of change he goes through I can think of is how Rick changes in the excellent Walking Dead series. His hair and beard get longer and he becomes less and less affected by the death he sees. Every injury he and all the other characters suffer permanently alters their appearance making them more and more like monsters themselves.
One of the things that makes Bad Company themselves incredibly original is that I’ve never been so interested to read about a group of characters I didn’t like. And I don’t mean I didn’t like them because they were crap characters. I didn’t like them because most of them are horrible people! Many of them are untrustworthy, selfish, filthy murderers who don’t care at all about the lives of their fellow soldiers to the point that some of them even kill their own men as casually as killing an insect. Some of comicbooks most popular characters are liked because they’re “Badasses” this lot however are just bad people who you probably wouldn’t want on your side in an actual war in case they used you as a shield or pushed you onto an unexploded grenade.
Also, something that sets this comic apart from a lot of other ongoing comic series is that like The Walking Dead, apart from the main character who narrates a lot of the story with out takes from his diary, any of the other characters could be killed at any time. This adds a kind of tension that you don’t get reading mainstream Marvel or DC titles where, even if they did kill off someone from the X-men or the Justice League, you know they’ll just bring them back somehow in a few issues time.
The only word I can think of to describe the artwork in this book is wonderful. Detailed characters, brilliant facial expressions and emotion,stark landscapes and terrible depictions of violence, torture and it’s victims, many of whom look like victims of the nazi concentration camps of the second world war, emaciated and thin from the awful conditions. If it wasn’t in black and white this would be an incredibly gory comic in deed with all the blood being white instead of red. Being in black and white the artwork does show its age a little but overall it really adds to the desolate hopelessness of the comics feel.
What begins as a fairly straight forward human/alien war story quickly turns into a deep saga about conflict, friendship, revenge, humanity and ends as a galaxy spanning adventure to save the human race from total annihilation. Some of the worlds most successful comic writers spent a lot of their early careers writing for the British comic 2000ad. Mark Millar, Garth Ennis, Alan Moore and Pat Mills to name a few and 2000ad, although not widely read in the rest of the world, remains and always has been one of the greatest examples of creative story telling available and this, in my opinion, is one of the best examples of how good their stories are. The ONLY thing I can possibly think of to fault this book is that some of the dialogue shows it’s age a bit but that doesn’t stop it from being a superb work of fiction.
Read it. And if any of it doesn’t impress you, try to think back 25 years to what other mainstream comics were being published at the time and compare it to them.