Script Droid: Tom Tully
Art Droids: John Richardson, Steve Dillon, J. Johnson
Lettering Droid: Pete Knight, B. Nuttall
Available in digital from: 2000 AD webshop & apps for iPad, Android and Windows 10
You can read the other parts of our five-part deep dive into this mammoth release here:
Following on from a fascinating two-part interim tale based upon incidents taken from left-flank blocker J.T. Venner’s biographical book “With A Mate Like This, Who Needs Enemies?”, Tom Tully’s sense-shattering conclusion to the Slater Slayers’ heavily-sponsored challenge match against the Southampton Sharks is certainly well worth the wait. For whilst the game’s disappointingly short-lived night-session isn’t covered anywhere near as long as the first-half, its narrative gets as dark as Street Football can probably get following Matt Tallon’s truck with a savage gang of armed Fan-actics; “Mindless vermin who use sport as a tribal war! Any other time I wouldn’t even spit on them! But now..! Maybe they can help me to rid his game of the biggest street-rat of all..!”
Interestingly however, despite this pulse-raising romp towards the old Saints Soccer Stadium arguably portraying the Slayer as actually being even more of a cold-hearted killer than the players and officials he has vowed to hunt down, Tully still somehow manages to make the central character somewhat sympathetic to the reader. This quite disconcerting feeling is probably in part due to the sheer sense of poetic justice the storyline’s road takes as the audience discovers just how Jaws Jensen got rid of Port Vale Pirates’ Paul Simpson by messaging a bunch of crazed Southampton followers to mercilessly ambush the player when he was isolated and without help.
The fact that Tallon manages to almost engineer a similar fate for the Sharks’ captain somehow allows the anti-hero to seemingly get away with badly breaking both the game rules and the actual law. Indeed, by the time an absolutely terrified Jensen is ruthlessly dispatched by a “gun-happy old codger” who simply refused to leave his shop unattended during the match, many bibliophiles were probably elated at Matt’s nefarious actions, even though the star Striker had clearly conspired with a bunch of brainless thugs to commit premeditated murder.
Sadly however, this cataclysmic conclusion does contain something of a sole disappointment following John Richardson’s replacement as Art Droid by Johnny Johnson for the very last part. What with Steve Dillon pencilling the aforementioned interlude spotlighting Venner, this substitution means that no less than three different artists end up sketching four successive instalments, and despite Johnson’s similarity in style to his predecessor, this definitely jars the mind away from Tully’s storytelling.