Attack on Titan is Kind of Trash

Attack on Titan is one of those blockbuster series that you can expect even the most casual manga/anime fan to enjoy, up there with Death Note, Sword Art Online and Full Metal Alchemist, among others. However, like Death Note, I have never understood the praise this series has gotten – with both of these series, it’s almost like people are in love with the fantastic premises more than the actual execution. I watched the first two seasons of the anime when they came out and was initially intrigued, but soon lost interest due to the glacial pacing and wasted characters, to the point where I dropped off entirely a couple episodes into season three. That said, I knew that there were big, interesting developments as the story went along and so when Humble Bundle were offering 26 volumes of the manga (plus a ton of spin-off manga to go with it) for cheap, I decided to jump on the opportunity. I’ll be honest – the manga sunk its hooks in and captivated my attention in a way that the anime never could. I greedily devoured multiple volumes every day as if I was one of the series’ titans. There were a few niggling issues, sure, but the writing was too damn engaging to really hold this against the series.

…and then chapter 100 comes along and out of nowhere the series’ quality plummets off of a fucking cliff. I’m serious, as soon as I hit this chapter I said to myself “Wait, what the hell!?”, but kept going because “The writing has been strong to this point, surely Hajime Isayama knows what he is doing”… Well, turns out he didn’t, because the last 40 chapters of Attack on Titan are disastrous, going off the rails in ever more spectacular ways and outright harming the preceding chapters in the process. It’s so bad that, as of the time of this writing, the fanbase are still up in arms about it. I would personally say that it’s a disaster on par with Game of Thrones season eight, an ending so bad that it torpedoed most peoples’ previous love of the series.

So, what is so bad about Attack on Titan? Let me count the ways… Oh and just a note, this is mainly going to be based off of the manga – the anime is extremely faithful to the manga so story criticisms are likely to carry over between the two. My main criticisms unique to the anime are that the pacing is painfully slow (like, when your goal is to pick up a rock and move it, it shouldn’t take you two whole fucking episodes to pick up the goddamn rock) and that the show leaves me questioning how anyone ever gets caught and/or killed by titans (they are portrayed as being so slow, stupid and unthreatening that everyone who is dies does so because the stupid morons were frozen in place for minutes at a time).

Anway, with that said, you know what time it is!

The Characters

Before we get to the ending we should probably lay some groundwork on the issues I had with Attack on Titan, even before it all went bad. Foremost among these issues were the characters. Don’t get me wrong, there are some great characters in Attack on Titan – Jean is by far the best character of the main cast of heroes, Reiner is such a compelling and tragic character, Gabi has a strong character arc (which is one of the few bright spots in the last 40 chapters), Erwin Smith is a good example of a morally-complicated leader and Captain Levi is just cool. The story itself mainly centers on Eren Yeager and his two childhood friends, Mikasa and Armin, but unfortunately Eren is a generic, boring anime protagonist. You’ve seen this kind of protagonist before, someone whose sole characteristic is a philosophical opposition to some external force which is further fueled by a defining, tragic event. In the early parts of the manga his character entirely revolves around wanting to kill the titans and save humanity and this is fine for this kind of story, if not particularly interesting. I’ll cover more of Eren’s character development as we go along, but the main thing to know for now is that the series is centered on a rather shallow character.

Then there’s Mikasa, who initially seems like she’s going to be a total badass. She’s extremely capable, the best fighter in her class in every category, but is emotionally distant. Unfortunately, her character revolves entirely around Eren to the point of being ridiculous. Seriously, when she is told that Eren was killed by titans, she straight-up tries to commit suicide and almost gets herself killed several times trying to protect him. Why is she like this? Well, turns out that her parents were killed and she was kidnapped by robbers, but then Eren came along and fucking stabbed them to death and then told her to stab the last one to save him, so she believes she owes him her unending devotion (even though, y’know, she saves his ass several times and he doesn’t return the favour). As a result, Mikasa’s character is constantly kneecapped by being slavishly devoted to Eren, while also being upstaged by Eren at all times in the process. To make matters even worse, Mikasa also has the indignity of being upstaged twice, because as the stone-cold badass she occupies the same role in the story as Captain Levi. As soon as Levi gets introduced, every time something badass needs to be done Levi gets to do it, leaving Mikasa as Eren’s over-glorified bodyguard for the rest of the series. It sucks, and to make matters worse, it’s treated like some sort of revelation towards the end of the story that, oh my God, Mikasa is in love with Eren! And then we discover that Mikasa’s talents aren’t because she’s just a badass, it’s actually because her family were experiments infused with the strength of titans… and also because she’s Asian. I’m serious, if you thought Midichlorians were the stupidest demystification in fiction, you clearly haven’t read Attack on Titan. As if that wasn’t enough, it’s also implied that Mikasa rejecting Eren turns him into a genocidal maniac in the series’ ending. It definitely comes across to me like this is the intended reading, but even if it isn’t, it’s self-internalized by Mikasa and is just another shitty development for this wasted character. Oh and worst of all? One of the last panels in the series is Mikasa kissing Eren’s severed head WHAT THE ACTUAL FUCK!?!?!

I bet you thought that that was a joke. Also, I wanted to make this the featured image for this so much.

Armin, on the other hand, is easily the best character of the main trio. He isn’t physically impressive, describing himself as weak and useless on several occasions. However, he has a sharp mind which gets the characters through many dire situations and he draws strength from his friendship with Eren and Mikasa, while inspiring them in turn. The main characters manage to survive impossible odds because of Armin’s keen wit on several occasions, showing how invaluable he is to the survey corps. In perhaps the most climactic arc in the whole series, the retaking of Shiganshina district, Armin’s character arc hits its peak. The survey corps are nearly wiped out by a trap, but Armin’s strategic mind and his deep friendship with Eren are what wins the day, as he sacrifices himself to allow Eren to defeat the Colossal Titan. It’s a heartbreaking moment and a perfect death for the character, showing the pyrrhic cost of victory with the decimation of the corps and the sacrificial death of Commander Erwin Smith… but then, in perhaps the first example of Isayama committing a cardinal sin with his narrative, he reveals that both Armin and Erwin Smith somehow survived their injuries and are barely holding onto life. Let me lay this out to you so you can truly understand how insane this is – Armin was fucking cooked to death by the Colossal Titan, covered in full body burns (not to mention that he probably burned out his lungs in the process). This makes for a very intense chapter where the surviving characters fight and argue over which of these character should be healed (they happen to have a serum which will resurrect one of them and give them the powers of the Colossal Titan). They ultimately decide to save Armin, a decision which haunts him as he feels unworthy of being saved instead of Erwin Smith. This could have made for a fantastic new character arc in the latter-half of the narrative… except that Armin does nothing of consequence for the rest of the story (with the one exception being that he blows up a fleet of ships with his titan powers, but it’s not like this actually has any bearing on the plot). I’m serious, this genius character who had carried the heroes to victory several times up to this point gets resurrected and then does absolutely nothing of value for the rest of the story. I should also point out that the latter-half of the narrative revolves around several conspiracies and involves trusting clearly-untrustworthy characters. You’re telling me that Armin couldn’t do a goddamn thing to unravel any of these plots? Oh wait, that would have inconvenienced Isayama’s narrative, that’s why they neutered Armin. But… why even bother resurrecting him at all at that point? I’m serious, he had a fantastic death, just let him die instead of dragging out his character as a shadow of his former self.

The Ending

So, how exactly does the last third of Attack on Titan drop the ball so badly? Well, it all starts with a sneak attack by Eren on the nation of Marley. Marley are attempting to get support for a global coalition to wipe out Eren’s people, the Eldians living on the island of Paradis. The Eldian bloodline are the only ones capable of turning into titans and they are viewed as monsters because of this, and because in the past the Eldians had conquered the world and committed atrocities which they are still hated for. At the time of the story, Eldians are a ghettoized and demonized people, used as weapons of war by Marley through forced transformation into titans, with the only “free” Eldians having isolated themselves behind their walls on Paradis for nearly one hundred years now. So how does Eren react to this call to commit genocide against the people of Paradis? Why, he gives them all the excuse they need to go to war with them by becoming a fucking terrorist and attacking the public gathering of nations!!! Might I add that this declaration of intent was a huge public event, with dignitaries and civilians from all around the world gathered together and caught up in the crossfire as Eren rampages through the city. His actions force the other people of Paradis to act as well, causing a gigantic titan fight right in the middle of a city and leading to the aforementioned destruction of the Marley fleet by Armin in an attempt to debilitate their military response.

Why does this moment bother me so much and why does it mark the point where Attack on Titan nosedives in quality? Well, I believe that the issue here comes from the way that Eren’s character is handled throughout the story to this point. At the outset of Attack on Titan, Eren makes all sorts of bold declarations about how he’s going to kill all the titans, but in his very first mission his blind rage gets him consumed and seemingly killed until it turns out that he’s secretly had titan powers all along. He then spends the next several volumes trying (unsuccessfully) to understand and get control of his titan powers. During this time, he learns that he cannot just act as he wishes to, he needs to trust his allies who see the bigger picture. Then during the coup storyline, Eren gets kidnapped and spends most of the arc sidelined. Finally, during the retaking of Shiganshina, Eren does a lot of the fighting but he’s not really making the decisions, by this point he’s just following orders to save humanity. As you may notice, in addition to being shallow and boring, Eren is a passive protagonist, which is a lethal combination. Whenever I see people saying stuff like “Eren is so cool!” or “Eren is a chad!” my first response is “…seriously?” What Mandela Effect universe did they come from? This makes Eren’s sudden turn into being an active antagonist in the final third of the story so jarring and unconvincing – it just doesn’t make sense given the trajectory of the character up until that point. Those Game of Thrones season eight comparisons don’t end at how bad the ending is, this sudden heel-turn by a major character is a big reason why the ending is so unsatisfying. It’s not just that Eren attacks Marley either – after touring other countries he decides to wipe out the freaking world’s population in order to save the people of Paradis. WHAT??? In my opinion, Isayama didn’t lay the groundwork for this twist. Having a character say “My friends are the most important thing in the world to me” isn’t justification for “Okay, I guess I’m going to kill everyone in the world now”, especially after he tours the world and sees that there are many good people within it.

Beyond forcing Eren to become a villain “because plot”, the final third of the story has so many stupid twists that it wants us to go along with. The biggest among these is the idea that anyone believed that Zeke (an Eldian working for Marley who has the power to turn into the Beast Titan… and also, Eren’s half-brother) could possibly be working to save Paradis. Like, how did anyone in the survey corps go along with this? The guy was gleefully turning Paradis’ civilians into titans and hurling rocks at the survey corps (which killed Erwin Smith, I may add) a couple volumes earlier, now you’re trying to convince me that anyone believes that he has the best interests of Paradis in mind? The fact that the characters lampshade how stupid this is by talking about stealing his titan powers away from him and yet do not do it does not make this any better. We later discover that Zeke truly does have nefarious plans all along – he’s planning on sterilizing all Eldians the world over, killing them all off in about a hundred years and ending all conflict with them… a horrifyingly evil plan which turns out to be preferable to what actually ends up happening…

Then there are the numerous plot twists involving the Yeagerists, a radical faction of Marley defectors and Paradis soldiers who view Eren and Zeke as saviours. This is a huge conspiracy which somehow goes undetected for years, but even within the Yeagerists themselves there are secret sub-factions, some of whom strive towards Zeke’s sterilization plan and some of whom strive towards Eren’s plan of wiping out the world beyond Paradis by releasing the titans within the walls in an event known as “the rumbling”. There are some clever moments within this storyline (particularly the revelation that Zeke has been spiking the soldiers’ wine supplies with his spinal fluid, which creates a ticking time bomb where he can turn everyone affected into a titan at will), but for the most part it is exhausting and pushes the bounds of belief that this conspiracy wouldn’t be uncovered at some point, especially considering how fanatical these Yeagerists are. Thankfully, it all mercifully ends with Eren getting his head blown off by an anti-titan rifle, but just before his brain shuts down he makes contact with Zeke and then sets his plan in motion, beginning the rumbling which leads into the final arc where the main characters have to stop him once and for all.

The final third of Attack on Titan is a good example of the dangers of the mystery box style of storytelling. Attack on Titan absolutely thrives on mystery boxes. What are the titans? What is outside the walls? What is Eren’s father’s secret he keeps locked in the basement? Where did the Colossal and Armoured Titans come from? As the story goes along, and even as some mysteries get answered, new mysteries appear. Why can Eren turn into a titan? Why are there titans in the walls? Why did Reiner, Bertolt and Annie betray the survey corps? How did Eren control the titans that one time? While this kind of storytelling is a big reason why Attack on Titan is such a compelling read, it’s also a big reason why it all feels so deflating in the last third of the narrative, as the mysteries it has been building up either have unsatisfying answers or get thrown to the wayside. One big question I always had was why did Ymir go with Bertolt and Reiner, abandoning Historia (who she is clearly in love with) in the process? What duty could she do that would outweigh protecting Historia and fighting alongside the people of Paradis? Well, turns out, absolutely nothing because by the end we realize she literally handed herself over to the people of Marley to be killed and all she got for it was a promise from Reiner not to kill Historia… whoop-de-fuckin’-do. This is a fairly minor issue in the grand scheme of things, but it’s one that makes repeat readings of Attack on Titan more unsatisfying because Isayama puts twists and mysteries ahead of actual payoff. Another big example of this is Annie, who is revealed to be the Female Titan and encases herself in crystal early in the story to avoid capture. She spends almost a hundred chapters encased in this crystal, the audience tense the entire time, knowing that it’s only a matter of time until she decides to free herself and wreak havoc once more… only for Isayama to finally remember “oh shit, I’m in the end game, better release Annie now!” and have her just randomly escape and join the heroes to take down Eren. It’s a rushed, jarring and unsatisfying payoff which feels like it was done as an afterthought rather than actually planned to go this way. Oh, and just to shit on everything even more, it’s revealed that Eren’s titan power allows him to see into the memories of past and future inheritors of the Attack Titan, meaning that he’s known what was going to happen all along and has been manipulating his past self from the future into making all the misery of the series happen (including killing his own mother, setting the events of the story in motion). Just… holy fucking shit, that is a stupid fucking twist. I literally rolled my eyes and said “Are you fucking kidding me?” when Isayama dropped that steaming load on my lap. Oh, and in the final chapter, it turns out that Eren told Armin about this and that he’s going to massacre the world and Armin thanks him! AND THEN Eren uses his titan powers to ERASE ARMIN’S MEMORY OF THE CONVERSATION UNTIL THE MOMENT OF EREN’S DEATH. Jesus fucking Christ, fuck mystery boxes, fuck “big twists”, just tell me a good story for fuck sake!

I would be remiss if I failed to mention the most egregious waste of character in the last third of the story: Historia Reiss gets completely shafted. She’s a crucial character during the middle chapters of the story, revealed to be the secret heir to the throne of Paradis and the only one who can change the fate of the nation after a hundred years of oppressive rule. The whole point of the survey corp coup storyline is to put Historia in charge of the nation, so surely when they get her in charge something important happens, right? Well… no, not in the slightest. Isayama knocks her up and then sticks her in an orphanage for the rest of the story. I’m not joking, this major character shows up in maybe three or four panels in the entire last third of the story, which is absolutely insane and down-right insulting. Why do this, you may ask? Well, I believe Isayama got high on twists and then wrote himself into a corner. Part of Historia’s importance is that, as a royal descendant, she is capable of unlocking the power of the Founding Titan, which is possessed by Eren but unable to be used unless he comes into contact with a titan of royal descent. There are several discussions about turning Historia into a titan in order to use this power for their advantage, so why don’t they do it and give one of the established, main characters something to do after hyping them up during the entire middle-section of the story? Well, Isayama decides to instead reveal that Zeke is secretly of royal descent all along and is already a titan, so he’s capable of unlocking the power of the Founding Titan for Eren and is more than happy to do so. Again, this makes the fact that the survey corps places trust in Zeke even more insane. You clearly can’t trust the guy, kill Zeke and transfer his powers on to Historia, goddammit! And, again, lampshading this idea and then not following through with it doesn’t make it okay!

As if the ending wasn’t bad enough, it has been revealed that in the soon-to-be-released final volume of Attack on Titan there are going to be additional pages which add onto the ending. The existing ending sees Eren use the rumbling to wipe out 80% of the world’s population before being killed by his old friends in the survey corps in order to stop him. This erases the ability to turn into a titan for all Eldians around the world, meaning that their race can no longer become monsters. They return home to Paradis where the Eldians live in peace thanks to Eren’s sacrifice and it’s implied that Eldians are viewed as heroes who saved the world. It’s a poor ending, but it’s going to get even worse when Isayama shits on it even more by showing a time skip where Paradis gets carpet bombed into oblivion. Goddamn, I guess preventing complete global genocide was the wrong course of action then? I get that this is thematically appropriate – Attack on Titan frequently shows that cycles of violence are inevitable and that people are incapable of uniting, but holy fuck is that a cynical way to end your story. It effectively undoes everything that has happened because none of it matters in the end and, like I said, it makes the lesson “don’t half-ass a genocide, you have to wipe out all of your enemies to secure your future”. Just… it’s a story. I don’t care how pessimistic you are, break the fucking cycle you cynical dickhead!

So… How ‘Bout That Imperialism and Antisemitism…?

I was aware of the commentary about Attack on Titan taking a fascist, imperialist and antisemitic turn in its latter-half, so I was keeping a critical eye out for this while reading. While I feel like some of these hot takes may be a tad overblown, Isayama does weave in some uncomfortable themes which I have a hard time just dismissing away. Up-front, Attack on Titan appears to be staunchly anti-war – from the first volume you have soldiers haunted by the things they’ve seen, the comrades who have been devoured around them, desperate to feel like their sacrifices have any meaning to them (not to mention all of the horrific deaths we witness throughout the series). This would seem to paint war as something to be avoided at all costs, but as the story goes on I get the sense that that’s not really what Isayama is getting at – in Attack on Titan war is portrayed as a horrible thing that is necessary. After all, the while the narrative sympathizes with cadets who want to join the military police to stay as far away from titans as possible, they’re very clearly looked down upon in comparison to the survey corps who will lay down their lives for the good of humanity. Sure, they’re going to die in droves, often painfully and without even knowing their contribution to the betterment of humanity, but it is hammered home several times in the narrative that their sacrifices were not in vain.

In addition to this, war has to be led by great people who can make these sacrifices worthwhile. While there are hints of this early on, it’s stated outright by Armin when Erwin sacrifices dozens of survey corps members to lure out the Female Titan:

“The commander my be a cruel, even evil, man… but I… I think that’s good. Even if it puts his comrades’ lives in danger, he has to envision every possible development and make a choice. Between the lives of 100 of us and those of humanity, behind the walls. […] The people capable of changing things are the ones who can throw away everything dear to them. When forced to face down monsters they can even leave behind their humanity. Someone who can’t throw anything away will never be able to change anything.”

As if that wasn’t enough, Erwin Smith is viewed as the best hope for humanity’s future and there’s a whole chapter that revolves around how the previous commander of the survey corps admitted that “Average men aren’t able to accomplish anything. […] Special people do exist. It’s just that I wasn’t one of them. But I had to lead so many of my comrades to their deaths before I was able to figure that out.” We get a few of these “great men” in the story, most of whom are active military leaders, including Commander Pixis (who is based off of an Imperial Japanese general who Isayama admires). They are contrasted by the weak, selfish elites of Paradis who contribute nothing to society and who are shown to always put their comfort and power above any efforts to better humanity. This comes to a head when Eren’s titan powers are discovered and he is arrested and brought to trial. The elites want him to be killed because his existence threatens their seat of power, while the survey corps want to utilize him as a weapon to retake Wall Maria and save humanity. During the middle-section of the story (particularly during the coup arc), the elites and their cronies do everything they can to stifle the efforts of the survey corps up to and including going to outright war with them when they feel that their threat to their stability is too great. Again, this is the sort of thing that seems anti-authoritarian on the surface – they are, after all, trying to take down this corrupt regime. However, the resulting military coup and emphasis on these “heroes” who should be trusted above all others to reshape society puts that into question. I found the discussion on this Reddit thread about whether Attack on Titan is fascist to be particularly interesting and worth reading for more perspectives on this topic.

Another contentious aspect of Attack on Titan is the way it co-opts Jewish imagery and history in questionable ways. The most glaringly obvious of these is that the Eldians living in Marley are all hated by society, confined to ghettos and forced to wear armbands to identify their race. The parallels are evident, which makes me question whether Isayama gave any thought to the implications that this would bring about. First of all, every Eldian has the capacity to turn into a titan, lending credence to the notion that Jews are secretly monsters and suspicion or hate of them is in some way justified. Furthermore, the Eldians once ruled the world and are accused of committing atrocities around the globe centuries ago, harkening to the anti-Semitic ideas of nefarious Jews ruling the world. Hannah Collins, herself of Jewish descent, describes why this is so problematic within the narrative:

Anti-Semitism, like any form of predjudice, is based in fear, which has no logical root. By making Eldians former conquerors and genetic ‘freaks’ of nature, Isayama provides a plausible rationality to something that should have none. He didn’t have to make Eldians analogous to Jews for us to understand them as victims, and I – like many others – would have felt far more comfortable if he didn’t, to be honest.

It’s the same issue we’ve seen time and time again where racial and political imagery are co-opted in a narrative (Bright and Tom Clancy’s Elite Squad being recent examples of how crass and offensive this can be). At best, Isayama didn’t consider how making Eldians obviously analogous to Jews would lead to some questionable implications. At worst, it belies a racist worldview, which brings me to my next criticism…

Isayama seems to be obsessed with bloodlines in Attack on Titan. Race is, in the real world, largely a social construct, but in Attack on Titan it’s about as “real” as you can get. As I have already said, the ability to turn into a titan is a genetic trait of the Eldian race, but not only that but all Eldians have the ability to have their bodies and minds altered by the royal bloodline. This, of course, adds a whole other hierarchy to these bloodlines, since the royal bloodline possess special powers that are unique to them alone. As I previously mentioned, the fact that Mikasa is Asian is also a weird plotline in Attack on Titan. It’s revealed that non-Eldians were hunted down in Paradis since they are immune to the royal family’s memory-altering powers so the fact that Mikasa is Asian is made out to be a big deal that makes her special. In addition, her status as a member of the Ackerman family also provides her with the genetically inherited ability to be a really fuckin’ good fighter… again, it’s not because she’s just a badass or talented, it’s because of her stupid bloodline. Hell, Eren reveals that Mikasa doesn’t even really love him, she’s just genetically predisposed to protect them due to her bloodline (that said, the truth of this statement is left ambiguous and I personally believe he was lying). All this obsession with bloodline is weird and, in my opinion, narratively lazy on its own, but add it up with the co-opting of Jewish history and the imperialist themes and it becomes harder to believe that Attack on Titan isn’t promoting a pro-fascist worldview (and that’s not even getting into the ending, which promotes genocide as the only way to protect your loved ones).

Well If You’re So Smart, How Would You Fix It, HUH?

There really is a lot to like in Attack on Titan – as I said in the intro, I greedily devoured every volume of the manga I could get my hands on because it was such a compelling read that any complaints I had were excusable until chapter 100 came along. There are a lot of things to love up until that point – engaging and compelling plot progression, well thought-out world-building, fantastic art that conveys the sheer speed and force of the setting, and a handful of outstanding characters. I even really like the big twist about the world outside Paradis, but it has to be said that this reveal represents a fundamental shift in the narrative with little direction on where things will go next. As a result of the open-ended nature of this moment, it’s hard to make any substantial changes without having to just write the whole ending out yourself. That said, I do have two scenarios where I would diverge the narrative and make Attack on Titan into a whole other beast.

First of all, the obvious – change chapter 100. I hate the entire notion of Eren becoming a terrorist and bringing the wrath of Marley down on the people of Paradis (not to mention the subsequent stupid twist with Zeke, the Yeagerists, Rumbling, etc). It only really happens because of Isayama’s cynical worldview, but it rings false to me. Eren and the survey corps have spent the last hundred chapters talking about how they’re trying to save humanity, so when he finds out that humanity is doing fine he just… decides that the people of Paradis are the only actual people who matter so time to flatten the rest of them? Again, I don’t like this villainous turn, it doesn’t make sense to me. So here’s my suggestion for an alternate post-chapter 99 – focus the narrative on war between Marley and Paradis, while the characters try to break the mental trauma of the Eldians living in Marley.

The second place where I would consider diverting the narrative is that Eren should have stayed dead. That first battle with the survey corps was almost brilliant. Having Eren’s boring-ass protagonist schtick end up being a red-herring as he is brutally killed in his very first battle would have been incredible and would have given Armin and Mikasa someone to be inspired by throughout the rest of the narrative. Obviously, this would be a HUGE diversion as it would also take with it the whole idea of titan powers (and we wouldn’t get four or five variations of “oh my God, so-and-so is also a titan!”), the world outside the wall, coups, etc, but it would focus Attack on Titan back to the simplicity of its premise – the bleakness of its world and the actual titan fighting. It doesn’t take too long for Attack on Titan to lose track of the regular titans and instead become more interested in the politicking or special titans, to the point where they barely matter after the first dozen volumes. This change would scale everything back and make for a far more simple narrative centered around that initial premise of the last of humanity killing titans. It would be far more simple, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing and could be far more satisfying in the end. At the very least, it would have been interesting to see how Attack on Titan could have turned out if it didn’t get immediately bogged down with typical anime bullshit.

I think that what’s so frustrating about Attack on Titan is that it has left itself effectively unsalvageable. Like, look at it this way – The Rise of Skywalker sucks but at least The Last Jedi is a good enough open-ended, cyclical conclusion that you can happily ignore it. You can’t really do that with Attack on Titan – the whole early narrative revolves around getting to Eren’s basement and once you get there and find out about the wider world you can’t really end there – it begs for a conclusion and unfortunately the one we got was bullshit. If we’re being honest, I still liked the first two thirds of Attack on Titan enough that I’d probably still recommend reading it, but goddamn you need to go in knowing that the ending is really fuckin’ bad.

Review: 2000 AD Humble Bundle (Part 2)

Welcome back to the 2000AD Humble Bundle round-up! I’ve finally gotten a chance to sink my teeth into the rest of this comic book overload and have plenty of thoughts to share. If you missed part one then I would definitely recommend checking it out before reading this. With that said though, let’s dive right back in with a real banger…

Judge Anderson: The Psi Files

Judge Dredd may be the poster-boy for 2000AD but I’d argue that Judge Anderson is the far more compelling judge character. Bizarrely, the Humble Bundle only includes volume two of Judge Anderson: The Psi Files, but luckily it is a compelling snapshot into what makes this character so great. The volume picks up in the wake of the tragic suicide of one of Judge Anderson’s friends and her final words haunt her throughout the entirety of the book: “People with gifts like ours shouldn’t use them for ugly things.” Unlike Dredd, Judge Anderson sees the judges for what they really are, oppressive fascists who make life worse for everyone and questions her role in propping up this system. The social commentary is pointed, including a story which is a blatant Rodney King analogy and which is just as relevant today and another which equates the judges with the Roman legionnaires who persecuted the early Christians. This refusal to just play along makes Anderson a far more radical and personable character, to the point where she abandons her post and goes on a soul-searching journey for the rest of the book. Anderson and the villainous Orlok the Assassin start to have a complicated relationship during this period as well, which is as unlikely as it is intriguing to see play out. The lengthy, serialized nature of the stories makes The Psi Files less focused than, say, Halo Jones (for example, the first third of the book is steeped in Christian imagery before suddenly switching to a story about freaking ancient aliens), but it’s still impressive that this collection is as coherent as it is.

Judge Dredd: The Complete Case Files

Of the books included in the Humble Bundle, the Judge Dredd case files were the only ones I had already read and I knew that they, by themselves, were well worth the $20 asking price several times over. The bundle includes the first five volumes and there are several all-time classics in these pages. While there are far two many good stories to list them all, especially notable are the series’ signature “mega-epics”, including such monumental stories as “The Cursed Earth” and “The Day the Law Died” in volume two, “The Judge Child” in volume four and the eye-wateringly epic “Block Mania” and “The Apocalypse War” in volume five (an event so momentous in the history of Judge Dredd that we’re still feeling the effects of it over 40 years later). Honestly, I’m underselling just how amazing these stories are because I just want you to go ahead and get them for yourself – they’re seriously that good!


Oh hey, another story from the mind of Dan Abnett! Kingdom is a far different beast than Abnett’s other story in this bundle, Brink. Set in a world where giant insects have taken over the world, most of humanity has gone into cryo-sleep to allow genetically modified dog soldiers to win the war in their stead. We follow Gene the Hackman, an alpha male dog soldier who loses his pack and begins wandering around the world trying to repel Them. As you can probably tell, Kingdom is full of dog/soldier pop culture references, to the point where the giant insect antagonists are literally called “Them“. The story is also loaded with dramatic irony, largely revolving around the fact that Gene is kind of an idiot – like, he’s cunning but his understanding of the world is incredibly limited and he generally doesn’t bother to expand his horizons. In a particularly funny example, one of his dog soldier companions is put down for being too old to fight and a human tells Gene that he was taken away to a nice farm where he can run around and enjoy himself, a lie which Gene references throughout the series as a place he’d like to visit someday. This wry humour helps to keep Kingdom from getting too grimdark and makes it consistently enjoyable, while Abnett’s writing keeps the story engaging. There are four whole volumes of Kingdom in this bundle and by the time I got to the second one I was hooked. The scope becomes more expansive and complex as it goes, but my one main complaint would be that Abnett has a bad habit of resetting the cast of supporting characters at the start of each volume, which is more annoying and frustrating than anything.


Mazeworld is an intriguing self-contained story from Alan Grant and Arthur Ranson, the duo responsible for some of the best stories from volume two of Judge Anderson. Mazeworld largely succeeds due to its protagonist Adam Cadman, an unrepentant asshole on death row who learns to work with others and become a hero when he is transported to the titular Mazeworld. Cadman himself doesn’t change that much, merely his perception of himself – in Mazeworld he’s seen as a hero and so he attempts to live up to that reputation. The world itself is interesting, being built up of several mazes which the local populace lack the complete (or true) maps to, which helps the maze-lords keep control over them and Arthur Ranson’s art utilizes Aztec architecture which gives it an exotic and unconventional feel. However, the world itself isn’t particularly well sketched out, especially compared to a similar sort of high-concept fantasy setting like Brass Sun. The finale is also pretty underwhelming, it feels like Alan Grant wanted to make this a limited series and as a result rushed the ending instead of getting there naturally. The ending itself is certainly appropriate, but I feel like it could have been more satisfying if they had given it a bit more room to breathe. Still, Mazeworld‘s a fun, short read that leaves you feeling better about the potential of humankind.

Scarlet Traces

We’re back with another Ian Edginton story, one which I’ve actually read a bit of in 2000AD already – Scarlet Traces, which acts as a companion piece, and eventually sequel, to The War of the Worlds. Featuring art from D’Israeli (for my money, one of the most distinctive artists at 2000AD), the humble bundle collects the first volume of the story along with Edginton and D’Israeli’s graphic novel adaptation of The War of the Worlds. This adaptation is fairly faithful to the source, if somewhat truncated, although it loses a lot of its literary significance in translation. That said, the first part of Scarlet Traces captures the sinister anti-colonial elements of the original novel far better, giving us a nice little pulp mystery which takes on a shockingly bleak and tragic tone as it goes along. Unfortunately, volume one ends just as things are getting truly interesting. There is a second volume available which I’ve purchased and I’ve already followed some of the newer issues in 2000AD, so I know this is a story that I’m really into but just be aware that the single volume in the bundle is but a tease of how good Scarlet Traces really is.


Shakara is bonkers. To set the tone, the first page of the book has humanity and the Earth being destroyed unceremoniously, while the last surviving human, a defiant, would-be “hero”, has his head crushed in humiliating fashion just pages later. That’s barely scratching the surface of how insane Shakara gets though. The story follows a bio-mechanical alien who is basically John Wick in space, cranked up to 11. Like… seriously, everything about Shakara is so over the top that it’s brilliant. I’m talking over-the-top aliens (one species is basically a spinal column in a vat, another is a gaunt creature with a giant floating eyeball for a head, while yet another is a sentient dwarf galaxy), impossible planetoids and imaginative spacecraft (one psionic species literally flies around in giant brains). The out-there denizens of the story match just how insane the story itself is. The first act follows the titular Shakara as he interrupts galactic-scale atrocities and takes on entire armies single-handedly in his quest for vengeance. The second act has a team of equally over-the-top assassins being brought together to hunt down and kill Shakara. The third act has every mercenary in the freaking galaxy coming after Shakara… again, it’s basically like John Wick, with the story and world slowly being doled out over time. I love it, it’s such a joy to read and each panel just gets more and more imaginative as it goes along. Like many of these stories there’s a second volume available outside the Humble Bundle and you know I snatched that up before I had even finished the first volume.


From what I understand, Sláine is something of a big deal in 2000AD, to the point where he has his own entire tab in the graphic novels section of the webstore. He’s basically an Irish version of Conan the Barbarian and has been with 2000AD since the 80s. I’ve never really read any of his stuff before now and… hoo boy, I have to say that I was really not into it. The Humble Bundle has two Sláine graphic novels included in it. The first is Warrior’s Dawn, a collection of Sláine’s original adventures which sees the titular character and his dwarf companion Ukko trying to make their way back north to reunite with Sláine’s love, Niamh. Warrior’s Dawn is… fine. It’s typical barbarian fantasy fare, with most of the entertainment coming from the constant bickering between the meat-headed Sláine and the unscrupulous Ukko.

If Warrior’s Dawn was the only Sláine story in the Humble Bundle then I would have been unimpressed, but the graphic novel entitled Book of Invasions vol. 1 completely turned me off all things Sláine. Set sometime looong after Warrior’s Dawn, Sláine has gone from a pulpy adventure story to thoroughly-unenjoyable, grimdark seriousness. It’s just so damn cliché, basically coasting off its grimdark tone and art style to try to appeal, but it did not work for me at all. Clint Langley’s art really leaves me mixed – on the one hand it has some of the most detailed and impressive work in the entire bundle. Langley’s style reminds me of Chrisopher Shy’s gorgeous work on the Dead Space graphic novels, not to mention that his work for Warhammer 40,000 is some of my favourite and really captures the horror of that setting well. However, there are times in Sláine where it is just ugly and feels like too much. When Sláine has a “warp-spasm” (translation: he hulks out) his muscles are exaggerated to such a ridiculous degree that I had to laugh at how stupid his tiny torso looked in comparison. To be fair, his warp-spasms have always looked stupid even in Warrior’s Dawn, but here they really clash with the more serious tone. It also does not help that the story itself is just a bunch of boring, grimdark barbarian clichés. Like, oh no, the demon army is only invading because they delight in raping the women and killing the children, how awful! The council of elders are dumb cowards, the only power that matters in this world is the sword and overwhelming violence! And spoiler alert, can you believe that Sláine goes on his quest for vengeance because the demons rape and murder his wife, Niamh? To make matters even worse, Ukko is basically shunted away in this story, so we don’t even get any sort of entertaining banter. Maybe Book of Invasions is just a shitty starting point to get into Sláine, but frankly I’m completely turned off by it. Like… at least I turned around on Bec & Kawl a bit by the end, Sláine was just a slog for me from start to finish. Book of Invasions is easily the worst story in the bundle and Warrior’s Dawn wasn’t much better. Maybe it’s just a matter of taste, but Sláine did not work for me at all.


Oh hey it’s another comic from an industry legend, Grant Morrison (who, I was recently informed by some dumbass on Twitter, sucks donkey balls… oh hey, and then another Twitter user informed me Morrison recently came out as non-binary, cool! As a result, I will be using they/them pronouns as they have requested). Zenith is a straight-up superhero comic, which is very unusual in the sci-fi and fantasy-dominated pages of 2000AD, and the Humble Bundle collects all four volumes of the story. It’s obvious that Phase One was written in the wake of industry titans Watchmen and The Dark Knight Returns, having been published just over a year after both landmark comics came out and shook up superhero narratives forever. It bears some resemblance to Watchmen in its narrative, taking place in an alternate-history timeline where superhumans fought on both sides of World War II, where an atomic bomb was dropped on Berlin and where the superheroes of the 60s have become washed-up shells of their former selves. The only hero still active is the titular Zenith, the only third-generation superhuman who happens to be a selfish, yuppie arsehole more interested in furthering his music career than helping people.

The most interesting thing in Zenith is the world Grant Morrison has created for his story. Finding out about the backstory of the first superhero, Maximan, learning about the second generation of heroes who refused to be tools of the government and instead joined the hippy movement, discovering that the second generation of superheroes have been lying about losing their powers, etc – personally I found this more interesting than the actual A-plot about Zenith dealing with life as a reluctant hero. The side-characters tend to be more interesting than Zenith as well. Washed-up superhero Siadwell Rhys (aka Red Dragon) spends most of Phase One an alcoholic, but Zenith helps to get him off the bottle and into fighting form to deal with a superpowered Nazi… only for him to instantly get one-shotted when they finally do battle. It’s a shocking and tragic moment because by that point Morrison had really gotten me to like Rhys before cruelly snatching him away. Peter St John (aka Mandala) is also fascinating in what he represents. Powers-wise he’s basically Mysterio and he was the ultimate hippy figure during the 60s. However, by the time Zenith takes place, he has fallen so far from his ideals that he has become a key politician in Margaret Thatcher’s conservative government! These generational commentaries are very clear throughout Zenith and are perhaps the most interesting aspect of the stories in my opinion.

All that said, the story starts to go a bit off the rails by the end of the second volume. Suddenly the story involves superheroes from hundreds of alternate dimensions teaming up to defeat the Lovecraftian Old Ones (literally, they name-drop them on a few occasions) and there are several dimension jumps, entire universes being destroyed and a bunch of new characters to keep track of. The art can also make it really hard to understand what’s going on, but Phase Three does give us a couple good twists and a brilliant splash panel of a robot riding a smiley face dinosaur into battle (which is as awesome as it sounds, even if it’s basically pointless in the actual story). Unfortunately, it also ends with an awful trans panic joke, which isn’t unusual for a comic written back in the 80s, but it’s disappointing none-the-less. Meanwhile, Phase Four is a disappointing conclusion. It finally reveals “The Plan” which has been teased for four whole volumes and it’s far more conventional than I had expected. This volume also tease a End of Evangelion-style apocalypse but doesn’t commit to it. Perhaps worst of all, Phase Four continues to just have Zenith as a passive actor within a story that is obstinately his own, making the whole endeavour feel kind of pointless. Zenith is just… strange. If you already know and like Grant Morrison then it might resonate with you, but I find it to be more interesting as a curiosity of a bygone era and a writer stretching himself rather than as a piece of entertainment on its own merits.


Zombo wastes no time. Within a couple pages it has already set up its world, story and demonstrated its morbid sense of humour… which is to say that I dig it. The deadpan, dark humour is what really makes Zombo stand out. Sure, like any good piece of zombie media it’s loaded with gore, but how many other zombie stories have a half-human, half-zombie who asks if he can eat you? Zombo scratches the same sort of itch that Metalocalypse does for me, with stories about people getting stranded on a death world getting eviscerated in humourous ways, a suicide cult trying to make their deaths trend on a snuff version of Youtube, a half-zombie, half-bee hybrid called… Zom-bee, and Zombo having to fight his evil twin using the backup brain that’s been built into his ass. For all its dumb thrills though there’s some interesting commentary about putting too much trust in the government and an intriguing concept about the universe consciously pushing back against unchecked human expansion. The Humble Bundle collects the two volumes of graphic novels which have been released so far. I liked the first quite a bit and the second is also good but the second story in the second volume leans way too heavily on the same sort of referential humour that I hated in Bec & Kawl and really soured me on the whole thing. That said, if there was a third Zombo volume I probably would have bought it, so they clearly are doing something right.

And that does it for the stories in this Humble Bundle! There are definitely some great stories here and even at full price I’d recommend several of them wholeheartedly. That said, because I have an obsessive compulsion with ranking the things that I consume, here’s how I’d rank each collection in this bundle. Think of it as a quick-and-dirty recommendation list:

  1. Judge Dredd: The Complete Case Files
  2. The Ballad of Halo Jones
  3. Shakara!
  4. Brink
  5. Judge Anderson: The Psi Files
  6. Absalom
  7. Brass Sun
  8. Kingdom
  9. Scarlet Traces (This rank based purely on the limited volumes in the Humble Bundle; if I was counting the continued volumes then this would surely rank higher.)
  10. Defoe 1666
  11. 2000 AD‘s Greatest: Celebrating 40 Years of Thrill-Power!
  12. Zombo
  13. Aquila
  14. Mazeworld
  15. Zenith
  16. Age of the Wolf
  17. Counterfeit Girl
  18. The Best of Tharg’s Future Shocks
  19. Hope… For the Future
  20. Bec & Kawl
  21. Sláine

Review: 2000 AD Humble Bundle (Part 1)

I like checking in on the Humble Bundle store every once in a while, sometimes there are amazing deals on things I’m interested in. Back in August/September one of these deals was on comics from 2000 AD. Already being a big fan of Judge Dredd, I knew that this was going to be a total steal so I decided to drop $20 for the tier 3 rewards and have been gorging myself on quality comics ever since (in fact, I’ve since gotten a monthly subscription to 2000 AD to stay on top of their ongoing storylines). After getting a few volumes in I decided that I wanted to document my feelings on these stories, since I don’t really have anyone else to talk to about these things and I have thoughts, dammit! So, without further adieu, let’s get into it…

2000 AD‘s Greatest: Celebrating 40 Years of Thrill-Power!

If you were looking for an introduction to 2000 AD then this collection is the perfect primer. It features several short stories from the publication’s long history, many of which I would agree are among the absolute best of 2000 AD. “Meat” is a particular highlight (which you can read in its entirety on 2000 AD‘s preview page!), with fantastic writing and art which shows off just how brutal the world of Mega-City One is. “The Forever Crimes” is similarly grim, but it is also a very early comic in the publication’s history, so it’s interesting to see just how much the comic medium has evolved in the past 40 years. Also worth highlighting is “The Heart is a Lonely Klegg Hunter”, one of the funniest comics I’ve ever read. Simply put, if you’re curious about getting into the stories of 2000 AD, then this is an ideal starting point.


Absalom was a real treat – the three volumes included in the bundle would have been worth the $20 that I paid alone. Set in a world where the English nobility made a secret pact with the forces of hell, the story follows a cantankerous investigator named Harry Absalom who secretly upholds the laws of The Accord and slays demons who break it. The main thrust of the story revolves around Absalom’s attempts to get a team together in order to break into the demons’ realm in order to save his kidnapped grandchildren. Absalom succeeds thanks to Gordon Rennie’s entertaining writing and Tiernan Trevallion’s distinctive and evocative art style. The characters are particularly great, from the titular Harry Absalom, to the lawful-evil Guv, to the cyborg demon servant Mr. Critch. The world itself is also fascinating, creating a rich world with distinctive elements (especially the freaking steampunk demons) and the story moves at a good clip. My only complaints are that it can be a bit difficult to follow the story at times, because Rennie will often drop you right into the narrative with little explanation (necessitating multiple readings to really appreciate), and that the story feels like it wasn’t explored to its fullest. In a foreword, Gordon Rennie says that he doesn’t like to stretch a story out beyond the character’s natural arc and in that way it succeeds, but there are so many more stories that could be told in this world beyond Harry Absalom himself. In addition, several plot-beats feel under-utilized. Still, Absalom is a great read and well-worth picking up, especially if you’re into the paranormal and steampunk stories!

Age of the Wolf

Oh shit, a story about a werewolf apocalypse featuring a badass, redhead female protagonist? You’ve got my attention, Alec Worley and John Davis-Hunt. Unsurprisingly, Age of the Wolf is a really fun read, featuring plenty of werewolf carnage and magical elements ripped directly from Norse mythology. The first two parts follow a fairly typical apocalyptic/post-apocalyptic storyline, with protagonist Rowan discovering how to use Nordic rune magic to fight back against the werewolves and various evil humans. The third part though… hoo boy, the third part makes the strange decision of having the werewolves evolve from mindless beasts into… furries. It’s a weird turn to say the least and I’m still not sure if it was brilliant or terrible.

The main issue though is that Age of the Wolf doesn’t explore its intriguing world nearly enough, nor does it have a lot of time to give its characters much personality. Rowan is the only character which gets any sort of development, but even she has her issues. In the foreward, Alec Worley states that he doesn’t like “strong female characters” and instead believes that we need “interesting characters” instead. However, I feel like Rowan falls on the “strong female character” side of things, as she is mainly defined by her strength rather than any sorts of conflict or development (this becomes especially notable as we get further on in this Humble Bundle and meet several much better-written and more interesting female characters). While I agree with Alec Worely that the trend of “strong female characters” is a problem, I feel like the solution is ultimately just to have more women writers and artists within the comics industry. In a lot of ways, Rowan feels like a man’s ideal woman moreso than a truly compelling female character in her own right.

The plot also zips along in unsatisfying ways, feeling like Worley and Davis-Hunt were constrained by a tight page limit to tell their story. For example, a Nazi kills Rowan’s lover and throws her into a pit of werewolves and she swears bloody vengeance against him. That’s the sort of set-up that drives entire narratives, but here it only takes like a page before she escapes the pit and then a couple more before she tracks him down and kills him. Being limited to under 150 pages to tell the entire beginning and end of the werewolf apocalypse is quite restrictive and leaves tons of unexplored territory. Don’t get me wrong, Age of the Wolf is a fun read, even one I’d give a tepid recommendation to read, but could have been a lot better.


Gordon Rennie makes his second appearance on this list with Aquila, a comic series which follows a Roman slave who was crucified for partaking in Spartacus’ rebellion. Dying, he calls out for any god to spare his life, and a bloodthirsty deity known as The Devourer answers, granting him boons by which he can slay the wicked. Aquila is notable in part due to its unique Roman historical-fantasy setting, which sets it apart from anything else in 2000 AD‘s catalogue. The story plays out like a grimdark Forrest Gump as Aquila encounters contemporaries such as Boudicca, Saint Peter and Nero, while also shaping the course of history as we know it. Aquila himself isn’t particularly compelling, but the story is entertaining and very well-suited for episodic adventure. If you’re into history then you will probably find Aquila interesting, as it is fun to see just how it stitches events together with its more fantastical elements. It doesn’t break new ground, but I really enjoyed Aquila, it gets another hearty recommendation from me.

Bec & Kawl

Bec & Kawl is the first book in this collection that I’m a bit “meh” on. It follows the titular Bec and Kawl as they get into supernatural mishaps, usually through their own stupidity (for example, in the first story they summon a demon to intimidate Bec’s college professor into giving her a better grade). The stories are drenched in irreverent, tongue-in-cheek humour (and are often straight-up stupid). I found the constant pop culture references in the first few stories to be grating and dated, these feel very much like a product of the mid-2000s (hell, they remind me of shit that I was writing at that time, in a bad way). Special shout-out to the tooth fairy storyline for being extra insufferable with its forced pop culture references. Luckily, the stories get a bit better as it goes along and as Bec and Kawls’ characters are better-defined. There’s something endearing about Bec’s psychotic narcissism and Kawl’s slacker stupidity which makes their misadventures entertaining even if the stories themselves aren’t particularly compelling.

The Best of Tharg’s Future Shocks

Tharg’s Future Shocks is a long-running, stand-alone, short story anthology which has been running in 2000 AD for decades now. Naturally, The Best of Tharg’s Future Shocks collects several of these stories into one big collection. All of the “Future Shocks” are sci-fi, Twilight Zone-esque stories, featuring some sort of twist in the final panel. By their nature, Future Shocks are simple, disposable and (given their structure) a bit predictable, but they’re still fun. Trying to guess the twists can be an enjoyable activity in itself, and I found myself even trying to come up with my own “Future Shock” stories because the formula is so simple and structured. The Best of Tharg’s Future Shocks is a fun, pulpy collection, but I’d say it’s one of the more inessential books in the bundle.

Brass Sun

Oh hey, it’s a series by IC2S veteran Ian Edginton (last seen during the Dead Space EU Love/Hate)! Edginton had taken over as the writer for Dead Space: Liberation, which made me wonder if the action-heavy narrative shift in that comic was on him or EA. Well, having read Brass Sun I’m confident that any shortcomings in Dead Space: Liberation were down to EA’s interference, because Brass Sun is easily one of my favourite books in this collection. Brass Sun is clearly an excuse for Edginton to go wild with creative worldbuilding ideas. Here he crafts a steampunk adventure story set in a unique, clockwork solar system. The plot itself is a very standard hero’s journey – chosen one protagonist Wren has to find pieces of a nebulous key to restart the sun and save the entire clockwork solar system. The narrative bears more than a little resemblance to modern concerns about climate change, which gives it a bit more resonance. The imagination on display and the unique worlds that we experience make Brass Sun an enthralling adventure, although Wren isn’t a particularly compelling protagonist in her own right. That said, my only real complaint is that the whole story isn’t out yet, this is only the first volume. You know I’m going to be hunting down issues of 2000AD to find the next chapter!


Holy shit, Dan Abnett! As a long-time Warhammer 40,000 fan, seeing his name always fills me with excitement (Prospero Burns is, in my opinion, a legitimately great novel, especially considering that Black Library novels tend to be little more than bolter porn). Not only did Brink not disappoint, but it even surprised me in several ways. First of all, it draws attention for its protagonist, Bridget Kurtis, who is a wildly unconventional female character (I mean… just look at her, she clearly isn’t Abnett’s imaginary girlfriend). She’s great and has a no-nonsense attitude which gets her through plenty of scrapes. Speaking of which, Brink‘s story revolves around Bridget Kurtis’ investigations into cult activity on various “habitats” – corporate-owned space stations which hold the remnants of humanity after the evacuation of Earth after it is rendered inhabitable. The setting is very rich with themes and parallels to reality as well, such as the dangers (and short-sightedness) of unregulated capitalism, religious fanaticism, wealth inequality, and facing ecological disaster. Abnett’s writing is solid, focusing on character and story over non-stop action (a trap many similar serialized stories fall into), and Culbard’s art compliments it well, being strikingly, grotesquely beautiful at times. The Humble Bundle came with all three currently-released volumes of Brink, with more potentially coming in future. I’d definitely recommend picking them up, I know that I’ll be eagerly scanning 2000AD for future installments!

Counterfeit Girl

Counterfeit Girl is one of the shortest books in this collection at a mere 68 pages and doesn’t feel like only the first volume in an ongoing series. That said, what the story lacks in length it makes up for in personality. Counterfeit Girl is drenched in cyberpunk style and philosophy, raising questions of identity in a world where personas can be downloaded and stolen at a moment’s notice. The titular “counterfeit girl”, Libra, navigates the underbelly of a pulpy, dystopian sci-fi society as she tries to bring down the villainous Albion Corporation. Rufus Dayglo’s art really enhances the punk themes as well (appropriately, he is one of the artists responsible for Tank Girl). All-in-all, Counterfeit Girl isn’t exactly breaking new ground (its themes of identity are very well-trodden territory for cyberpunk narratives, especially by 2016), but it’s still an enjoyable, breezy sci-fi tale that’s worth diving into on a lunch break.

Defoe 1666

Defoe 1666 is a bit like Absalom meets Aquila – a grimdark, historical fantasy, proto-steampunk story about a fanatic who hunts zombies after an infernal disaster resurrects the dead in 1666 during the Great Fire of London. While the story itself is entertaining and engaging (although it can be told in a confusing manner at times), the main draw is the amount of research which has gone into its creative arsenal. Basically every wild, zombie-killing invention in the story was designed and/or prototyped during the time period, from the multi-barreled shotguns, to the Renaissance-era tanks, to the square bullets designed to kill infidels (as opposed to the circular bullets for Christians). The art is also worth highlighting, being strictly black and white and with very gritty, grimy lines bringing this dangerous world to life. It’s also worth noting that the Humble Bundle only has volume one of the story, but there’s a second volume available on the 2000AD store. As is, volume one feels very much like a first act, but I liked it enough that I’m definitely going to purchase volume two to find out what happens next, so you can’t get much more of an endorsement than that.

The Ballad of Halo Jones

I figured that Halo Jones was going to be good just because it was written by Alan freaking Moore, but I really wasn’t expecting just how much I was going to love it. At the beating heart of the story is Halo Jones herself, who is remarkable as a comic book heroine in that she really isn’t that remarkable at all. She’s an everywoman who isn’t particularly good at anything, but who does what she can to survive in an uncaring galaxy while desperately dreaming of a way to escape the confines of her life. In the process, Alan Moore and Ian Gibson slowly introduce us to a universe which is rich and intriguing, while also being pulpy fun at the same time. The Humble Bundle collects three volumes of this classic tale and I definitely recommend reading them all – it’s so well-written and unconventional (the conflict in volume one literally revolves around navigating traffic!) and there are so many heartbreaking moments throughout.

My only have a couple of niggling complaints about Halo Jones. Bolume one drops you right into the universe and it’s not until the very beginning of volume two that they bother to explain all the intricacies of Halo’s home, The Hoop… and by then it’s kind of pointless because she’s already left it. Honestly, this information should have just been appended to the start of volume one. Another minor issue is that Ian Gibson is clearly an ass-man because he loads the panels with womens’ shapely asses every chance he gets. Again, it’s not exactly a major problem but it kind of undermines the story’s efforts to elevate women. And finally, the most galling problem about Halo Jones – it was never finished. In classic Alan Moore style, he lost the rights to his characters to the publisher of 2000AD at the time and then never finished the story as a result. Moore himself has said that he wanted at least three more volumes and as a result the story is clearly incomplete. I was devastated when I realized that I couldn’t continue the story, which is both something worth knowing going in and a testament to how good this story is.

Hope… For the Future

Hope is definitely one of the more “meh” inclusions in the Humble Bundle. While the idea of a magical detective with a demon companion is cool, the actual story fails to do much to excite. For one thing, that demon companion? Completely silent the entire time, so you don’t even get any fun banter. Instead, we just get Hope himself, who is about as generic a hardboiled detective as you could possibly ask for. And the case that makes up this story? Also very cliché for a supernatural detective story, even down to Hope’s primary motivation being that his son was kidnapped by demonic forces. Unlike most of the stories in this collection, I can’t say I’d even bother to find out if there are any other volumes available, let alone spend money on them. I’ll probably check new issues of Hope out in 2000AD if they show up and maybe I’ll grow more interested as the story goes, but as is I was unimpressed by Hope.

And that’s it for part one of this rundown of the 2000AD Humble Bundle! Tune in again soon when we take a look at the books in part two (after, y’know, I get a chance to read through them all)!