By Alan Moore, L Moore & J Reppion, Shane Oakley & George Freeman

(Titan Books) ISBN 1-84576-351-3

Disappointing collation as the lost legends of British Comics – and if you’re under thirty you can be forgiven for not realising that there was more than Dan Dare, Judge Dredd, and Dennis and Gnasher lurking in our murky, cultural past – get one last outing. A selection of those lost marvels and mysteries of the Empire, culled from the pages of British weeklies of the 1950s 1960s and 1970s published and owned by IPC, “star” in this tale of conspiracy and shadow government oppression. Once again, if you’re too young to know about Grimly Feendish, the Spider, Robot Archie, Bad Penny and Charlie Peace, best go ask your dad. If you do have some knowledge of the aforementioned, be warned – this is not how you remember them. This a modern take, and that should be all the warning you need.

21st century Britain is a pretty crap place to live and there’s not much joy about – especially for young comic obsessed slackers like Danny. Imagine his surprise when he discovers that all the heroes and monsters in his collection were real and the US and British Governments have been keeping them locked away for decades. But it’s an even bigger surprise that he’s off on an adventure with a really cool hot chick! Things proceed pretty much according to formula from there. If it feels a little like the rebirth of Marvelman/Miracleman, that’s because it is.

The plot unfolds pretty much according to spec, although older lags who aren’t appalled at the very idea of a refit might enjoy some of the in-jokes. The writers have done the best they can with what is so patently a commercial, as opposed to creative, brief, and the art, I will admit, copes well with a lot of stylistic demands. I’m just baffled at who the publishers thought they were producing this for.

To add to the bewilderment, the book is filled out with thirty-plus pages of the original strips that featured in those long-lost periodicals, such as House of Dolmann, Captain Hurricane, Janus Stark, The Steel Claw, Kelly’s Eye and Zip Nolan, which only serves to emphasise the huge differences between contemporary and vintage comic mores. It certainly feels that any ciphers could have replaced the lost childhood icons misused here.

Best keep uppermost in your mind the fact that everything in the originals was produced for the average twelve-year old boy and no-one today is crazy enough to try and target-profile a modern comic reader.

© 2007 DC Comics & IPC Media Limited. All Rights Reserved.