Much as I enjoy modern comics and graphic novels, my real love of comics is with the classic 70's / early 80's boys’ comics from IPC. They always had so much energy jumping right off the page and characters that really had you rooting for them. In retrospect many of these stories (Dredger, The Running Man, Shako, Lofty's One-Man Luftewaffe and tons of others) were at best, silly, and at worst, downright daft. I was reminded of this recently as I read Rebellion's collection of The Complete Harlem Heroes which includes its sequel, Inferno.
These strips had exactly the kind of energy and excitement that I craved as a kid and I still feel the same pang when I read them today. Both Dave Gibbons and Massimo Bellardinelli did some sterling work on these strips and while the sequel was essentially a rewrite of the first story, I didn't much care then or now; I couldn't get enough of players being smashed up by bizarre-looking motorbikes, exploding jet packs and the grotesque gallery of opposing teams.
Inferno though is by far the sillier of the two stories. Take the instance where John 'Giant' Clay having been beaten to within an inch of his life once again by arch-foe Artie Gruber, has an android replica of Gruber made to remind him that his foe might still be alive somewhere! What sort of mad logic is that? But the point is these stories were driven by one dramatic incident following another with weekly cliff-hangers upping the ante and keeping the anticipation going. 2000AD is still (I think) a great comic today but modern strips don't seem to have the same energy. I suspect we think we have more sophisticated tastes these days and want more plot and characterisation but personally I'd clamour for a bit more of the plot-less and the daft! For my money, The Complete Harlem Heroes is well-worth the entry price.
I will end by drawing attention to Dave Gibbon's stunning artwork of the revived and mad Artie Gruber as he storms off in search of Giant. And his glorious cover to prog 9, one of my favourite ever covers. It reminded me of the cover to Battle Picture Weekly no4 where Mike Nelson (code-name the Eagle) has his gun sights set on the Fuhrer with the words 'Target: Adolf Hitler'. That one seared itself into my young mind as I stared at it through the newsagent’s window one Bank Holiday Monday in the days when all the shops shut. It was agony waiting for the next day to go in and buy it. It was painful but I almost wish I could feel that same agony for comics these days - I guess that's just old age for you?