Let me tell you a little story. Last year (2016) I was scrolling down my facebook wall when I noticed an advert for the Southport Comic-Con. On the guest list was John Wagner. I’d missed John at the ‘International Film Festival’ in Manchester where he did a Q&A following a screening of ‘Dredd’ and I was gutted.
So I talked my partner, and a couple of friends to take the short drive across the river from Blackpool so I could take my son to meet one of the greats of British comics. Who, for my mind, is also one of the great pioneers of all comics that have lead to the multi-character universes we have in our cinemas today.
The convention was quiet and as we arrived John had left for his lunch. We wondered about a bit, enjoyed the cos-players, investigated the stalls. My son bought a dragon skull but I was waiting to see what Wagner Wears I could get. When he returned I was shocked and delighted that no one was stood at his table. In February of 2017 at the 2000AD 40th convention you couldn’t get near him.
I wondered up, fan boyed it for bit. Told him how amazing I thought he was and thanked him for just being something I really liked. I purchased a signed Judge Dredd poster that also had the signature of Carlos Ezquerra on it. I might have given out an audible squee when I saw this. It was then that John showed me the first issue of ‘Rok of the Reds’ a brand new comic from him and another comic great Alan Grant. I said “cool”, and “the cover is nice”. That is when I learned that the artwork was by Dan Cornwell. John had the first 3 issues and I bought them all because, well, John Wagner told me to.
I was all smiles at home with my poster and threw my signed copies of Rok on my book shelf. About 6 weeks later I was knocking about the house wondering what to do when I saw Cornwell’s Demon looking artwork, wonderfully coloured by Abigail Bulmer, sitting unread. So I picked it up and fell into the world where an alien on the run hides on Earth my morphing in to a body double and then absorbing the persona of a bad boy footballer who had let his career slide down the toilet.
Once Kyle Dixon, the footballer, had been fully extracted his shrunken body was kept safe for when it needed to be returned. Rok needs to go unnoticed so keeps his head down and stops Kyle getting on the wrong side of the law. This leads to Rok falling in love with football, and connecting with the people of the local community.
The story moves through each episode by introducing more of Roks back story and more hope that the Radford Reds can go on a giant killing cup run.
From the first issue I was hooked. It’s a beautiful mix of classic British comic heroes. Dan’s artwork channels Joe Colquhoun while being fresh and exciting. There is a consistency in his work that holds Wagner & Grant’s script together. The 2 Scottish scribes have fused Sci-Fi and sport in a way that’s new, yet somehow feels retro. The humour oozes off the page. Not as smack in the face set-up, knock down jokes. More as a real love for what they do.
The combination of the script, the artwork, Bulmer’s colour choices and Jim Campbell’s choice of font, make ‘Rok of the Reds’ a most pleasing experience. The end may have been a little predictable, but in a good way. Like the taste of your favourite meal cooked by your favourite family member (usually mum but, you know, modern times). It leaves you feeling warm and wanting more.
I can only say thank you to John Wagner for both writing such a fantastic comic, but also for making be buy it in the first place.
All 6 issues are out now, you really should buy them.