Written by: Alan Grant (as Craig Lipp)
Art by: Robin Smith
Price: £7.99 (UK)
The Graphic Novel reprints the following stories:
- “Bad City Blue” – (Prog 468 – 477)
The joy of 2000AD’s latest range of digital-only graphic novels is that it allows obscure titles from its 44-year history to be brought back to the masses without the expensive printing costs. Bad City Blue is one of those titles; comprised of ten episodes that appeared in 1986, this short serial is one of the magazine’s rare self-contained stories and the perfect candidate for a digital revival. Writing under the pseudonym “Craig Lipp”, Alan Grant’s gritty sci-fi adventure feels very much a product of its generation with a futuristic class divide that mirrored the excesses of the 80s. Robin Smith’s beautifully detailed artwork really brings out the grittiness of Grant’s script and it feels like the sort of story that could have been adapted into a cult 80s sci-fi movie back in the day.
Blue is a ‘button man’ who eliminates dangerous targets at the behest of his mysterious employers who live in the swanky dome above the under-city in an effort to keep order. When one of his targets reveals a conspiracy that reaches deep into the heart of Bad City, he soon finds himself questioning his very purpose. Structurally, the plot feels very reminiscent of Soylent Green and Logan’s Run, with a protagonist forced on the run to prevent him from busting the status-quo wide open. Robin Smith’s artwork really emphasises the series’ dystopian tone with some gorgeous and extremely dynamic panel work – the kind of high-quality black and white artwork that you’d expect from mid-eighties 2000AD. There’s some absolutely bonkers visuals here too, such as the robotic jellyfish that pluck their victims up in their tendrils or the flying sharks (who also later make an appearance in Judge Dredd).
Alan Grant’s script does a great job at setting the tone of the story, but the plot occasionally veers off the beaten track with some clunky gear changes, with a sudden and dramatic twist midway through which completely changes the protagonist Blue into a different character. It sometimes feels as if Grant lost interest in the story midway through, which might also explain the abrupt and rather nihilistic ending. However, this inconsistency actually works well for the story and gives it an air of unpredictability with some surprising reveals and twists that prevents it from feeling formulaic. There’s a real bleakness to Bad City Blue that distinguishes it from the typical dystopian fiction seen at the time and that final page reveal is a wonderful gut-punch twist.
Bad City Blue encapsulates the anarchic tone of 2000AD perfectly with its grim and gritty plot that continually bucks expectations. Extremely topical in the 1980s, it remains (rather depressingly) just as relevant now with the current financial inequalities seen across Britain. A product of its time certainly, I doubt we’d see a story as downbeat and pessimistic as Bad City Blue appearing in 2000AD nowadays and that adds to its charm. I love all of that anti-establishment 80s sci-fi, and this is a great little throwback to that era. An enjoyable curios from 2000AD’s past, it’s definitely worth picking up Bad City Blue in this collected edition for a full-on blast of retro sci-fi goodness.