NOTE: Before reviewing any issue of The '77 in the spirit of full disclosure it must be known I have been lucky enough to have written a small handful of stories for The '77 and I hope to do so once again in the future. Regardless of these facts I will offer my honest review of Issue 9 of The '77.
From a reader's perspective The '77 will always inevitably be a mixed bag. It is the nature of anthologies much like 2000AD that certain styles of artwork or writing will always appeal to different people. Ultimately it is impossible to please all of the people all of the time. Yet having said that as editor Ben Cullis makes a very good stab indeed at trying to accomplish that impossible task with issue 9 of The '77.
Immediately some obvious credit is directed towards Steve Kane's cover. I hope he would not object to me suggesting this but I can see some Glenn Fabry influences in his art. The orange used on the cover really make this issue instantly eyecatching.
Ade Huges and Steve Bull continue to provide a vibrant and colourful spine to the '77, and their contributions are consistently great fun, but we have so much more to think about. Lew Stringer's contributions too are also always something to anticipate with relish. The wit and joy he provides the reader in all of his pages are always clear to enjoy.
Issue nine certainly feels more substantial than previous issues. I am not sure if that is because of a higher page count or if a superior paper stock is being used. It is possible both are the case. As a product this latest offering, without doubt, has some weight within my mortal hands.
Artistically Andrew Sawyers and Ian Stopforth are the next Simon Bisley and Alex Ross respectively with little doubt in my mind. They both always knock it out of the park every day of the week and five times on Sunday for fun. I will admit some personal bias, having created a story together, but Andy Meanock never disappoints. Frankly In a few years time I'd happily and proudly display a Mister Meeker hardback book on my shelves.
Jo Heeley's Red By Night, Black By Day is also excellent but I am not certain it suits being broken up into chapters. Here I feel there is a storyline that really should have had been offered the graphic novel approach. Rupert Lewis Jones art is an absolute revelation but I am not convinced that these two talented creators aren't surely missing an opportunity. There are many stories now within the '77 wheelhouse, this is the first that ought to be collected into one volume when it is completed.
The pages that truly stood out for me in this issue were those by Gary Burley. Here are five truly raw black and white pages that suggest a future talent that is about to emerge. Many may not appreciate the skill it takes to be dynamic and dramatic without the use of colour. It can be a hard trick to pull off indeed. I hope the '77 offers this artist more opportunities, "Miles Story" may not be perfect but it showcases an artist potentially able to offer a great deal more. Arguably the '77 is the ideal place for artists to experiment, grow and become legends. With Dave Bedford perhaps more collaborations are on the horizon. I certainly hope that is the case.
As will all previous issues the '77 this publication is bold, brash and ballsy and it quite rightly makes absolutely zero apologies for that fact. If there was a flaw it would be thus far in the publication's history the artists have been the guiding lights. Many of the strips are very big panel experiences. Very few pages generally go very far over four panels a page. In general it might be refreshing to read a story that is slightly less spectacle and perhaps more densely packed. Having said that, perhaps that is an extemely minor flaw and my own personal taste.
An ideal example of what is required is more of S.A.R.A.H.
In five pages Noel K Hannan and Warwick Fraser-Coombe absolutely nail the rock and roll vibe of 1977 with a pinch of fun. The story has honest guts and is not afraid of itself. It feels like a true Pat Mills punch in the belly type of story, and that is no bad thing and is meant as a compliment. Here we have a character I truly want to read more about. This strip easily has the most fun and cheeky writing in the issue. It is a character I want to see much more of regardless of her clothing.
Issue nine of the '77 is extremely well produced and I anticipate more of the same with issue ten. In my eyes it is a nine out out ten, which feels oddly appropriate. I only say that because everything feels a bit too big panel art for me (but that is just me) but it it enormously good fun. Reading this issue is like a good night out at the cinema and I cannot wait for issue ten. To quote a certain TV series.
THIS IS THE WAY.