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The77, A Series, Review

The77 issues 1-6

How about a British indie anthology on the cusp of its first annual with a six-issue catalogue of intense renegade talent produced multi-genre fantabolism? It’s the cavalcade of big press, small press, cardboard box full of awesome The77.

You can’t have your cake and eat it too, too much of a good thing is bad for you, everything in moderation including moderation. These idioms have been thrown around with a morality of the trials of being too greedy, but the great thing about a good anthology is all those idioms become nothing better than poppycock. What’s even better is a British indie anthology from a pick and mix talent pool of legends with seasoned, new and future credentials. After a particularly long hiatus of just over a decade and with the exception of The Phoenix, as it aims itself purely at children, the British publications had stalled at three titles. Thankfully as evident of their longevity these have consistently been rather exceptional outfits, particularly 2000AD and Judge Dredd Megazine.

Then in the last three years, we’ve seen a booming revival with the likes of Sentinel, Comicscene Annual, Shift and, the slightly sporadic, Spacewarp. In this same time frame, we also saw the birth of The77 which currently has a Kickstarter for its first annual after a strong six-issue opening run. Here then we’ll explore and dabble with the series as a look back at what has come and what to expect from an excellent contender for longevity anthology production.

The77 V
V by Steve Bell and Ade Hughes

So, let’s start with the art. There's a banquet of styles on offer from The77 like all good anthologies. As an alternative anthology, it's also a bit of a mixed bag. There's some really stellar art on offer, and the whole package works without any styles clashing particularly as the series progresses. Yet some are a bit more polished and a few are really unique standouts. For me, issue four is the most solid collection in this regard with the likes of Neil Sims, Ade Hughs, Ben "Mac" Macleod, Jon Roydon, Robert Wells and Andrew Sawyers delivering the most eye-catching. In fact, Ade Hughs work on V is probably the most consistent seen in The77.

The most interesting and unique art belongs to either Andrew Sawyers for the mind-bending psychedelic visions of The Cell and Silver Jubilee or Ian Stopforths art alchemy on Extinction 2040. Ian creates a patchwork quilt of mediums, flitting between paint, sketch and wax to present something wholly interesting and outlandishly different. The accomplished and thoroughly talented John Mccrea gives the most polished art of the series so far in Animal Kingdom showing that "strapped up" kangaroos and heat vision pigeons can look bloody brilliant.

The77 Sgt Shouty Mouth
Sgt Shouty by Lew Stringer

The unmistakable style of Charlie Gillespie's (who does not deserve to have google searches tarnished by a bratty looking oik from Netflix) art for Disposal to me is the most stylised of the series presented. Charlie's art was last seen in this series in issue two on The Collector and on both occasions delivers wonderful art that you'd expect with a rich in detail, bombastic approach that clouts you over the head with bold ink lines and powerful design elements. Both strips show the extent of this talent as Charlie captures an exceptional eye for sci-fi. That's barely scratching the surface of what's on offer art-wise from The77 as the great PJ Holden drops art in issue two for flip's sake. There is an exhaustive list of talented artists to grace these pages over its six issues with returning talent Ade Hughs, Lew Stringer and Andrew Sawyers offering the lofty benchmark that most adhere to and a few surpass.

The77 Division77
Division'77 Part 4: Dave Heeley and Sinclair Elliott

For the stories then, The 77 wealth of talented artists is also matched by a talent lake rather than a pool. The longest-serving of this series credentials goes to the iceberg spotting, Queen singing Pele hugger Steve Bull whose story V follows the adventures of time hopping gladiators, the I.P.A supping 25 hours in a day campaigner Dave Heeley, whose story takes on bleak "reincarnated" humans conquering the universe on the whim of lizards in Division 77 and the package of happiness Lew Stringer who solely creates the absurdly super brilliant Sgt Shouty Of The Moon Force proving just how expertly he can entertain with a nostalgia wrapped delight about the power of biscuits. Sgt Shouty is in fact, come to think of it, the best total package of The77. Art, format, story and faultless silliness. These three creators sit among a plethora of storyteller talents, as such there's a diverse collection of stories on offer.

Steve McManus "The Mighty One" gave the series the epic The Collector of psychic sci-fi disasters, David Thomas presents Penny Pentagram, the story of a paranormal detective wonder girl navigating life and London under the tutelage of Master Yang. The final other standout series for me is Bambos Georgiou's The Cell, a tale of a bleak future run by "The Elders" where the only escape from a miserable prison-like existence lies in a fleeting trip to a virtual reality cell. Can there be more to life? Once again this is the briefest of snapshots to what is essentially at least six ongoing serialised stories amongst numerous one and done treasures from the overspilling reservoir of writers from childhood favourites to future ones too. It’s a heck of a series adding to the now blossoming British anthology series scene.

Some of these stories, the best example being V, feel so dense with storytelling it could benefit from being its own series but that's also part of the magic of this format. The anthology series delivered this way is a proven model, as when done right you get 2000 AD. The77 certainly has a strong chance of following that trend. The consistent output and entertaining sagas certainly curate an audience as evident by the series taking its next step of releasing its first annual. The annual is over on Kickstarter and among some interesting new stories and continuations of favourites will feature a switch up as V artist Ade Hughs lets Ian Stopforth take the reins as Ade takes on Division 77. The annual is already well funded but there's plenty of time to pick up awesome rewards and you’ll find it here. If you're still on the fence all issues are available at https://the77comic.bigcartel.com so there's every reasonable reason to find yourself another exceptional anthology comic.

Review 4.5/5

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