Monday, November 19, 2007

Reprint This! 17. Missionary Man

Reprint This! is a periodic feature where I talk about some out-of-print comic book gems that are not available in collected form for readers to enjoy. This is hoping to let rights owners know that, yes, readers are out here, and we'd like to buy the things we can't get at this time!

Despite such an enormous variety of books available these days, and genuine efforts to present the material in reasonably-priced, archival volumes, there are still countless fabulous series from the US, Britain and Japan which are overdue for new editions. I've selected two dozen titles which should be on bookshelves, but at this time are not.

One title that's been missing in action for years is MISSIONARY MAN, a spinoff from Judge Dredd set in the violent, radioactive, mutant-filled desert that used to be the center of North America before the bombs started falling. The series was created by Gordon Rennie and Frank Quitely, but many other artists, including Garry Marshall, Trevor Hairsine, Simon Davis, Henry Flint and John Ridgway, contributed to this excellent strip about an angry former judge from Texas City who found God and went out into the badlands to spread the word...

To the judges of Texas City, Cain was always a little odd, but when he found religion, he became intolerable. Turning his back on the city's corrupt government, Cain took the Long Walk to give law unto the lawless, with a little gospel learning as well. It's basically a Dreddworld version of many classic Western films, with the strange man with a violent past riding into frontier towns and cleaning up the bad guys.

Missionary Man's artists gave the strip a distinct look, with plenty of decrepit desert landscapes and hideous mutant raiders and criminals to match wits with Preacher Cain. Rennie comes up with some very clever storylines which take their cue from the classics and evoke Western mythology's particular aura. The Marshall-illustrated "Legend of the Unholy Drinker" is a particular favorite, concerning a zombie who wanders the desert looking for watering holes. It isn't - perhaps surprisingly - played for laughs, but instead takes a sorrowful tone.

After a few years as one of the best things in the Judge Dredd Megazine, Missionary Man was moved to 2000 AD to finish up some ongoing storylines and then begin an epic road trip called "The Promised Land." In this adventure, Cain agrees to help a party of "Helltrekking" Mega-City refugees who have lost their guide. While not the most unique of storylines - it feels like it's following in the footsteps of at least two Judge Dredd epics - the tale winds its way through several memorable episodes before an unforgettable conclusion.

There has only been one Missionary Man collection thus far. In the early 2000s, Titan released a single collection of the first eleven episodes, shooting for the audience who might want Frank Quitely's nine installments. This was nice, but it's really not the way it needs to be compiled. Rebellion's proven themselves able to collect classic thrills in nice, satsisfying chunks. Missionary Man's 70-odd episodes would work great in two editions, one with the 1993-96 episodes and one with the 1997-2002 stories. Call the first one "Bad Moon Rising" and the second one "The Promised Land" and you've definitely got a hit on your hands. So how about it, Rebellion?

(Originally posted November 19, 2007, 09:43 at hipsterdad's livejournal.)

UPDATE (3/15/10): A collected edition of the series is scheduled for April 2011.

No comments:

Post a Comment