You can read the other parts of our five-part deep dive into this mammoth release here:
The latest title from Rebellion in their brand-new series of digital-only 2000 AD collections, this bumper one-hundred-page periodical opens with a sense-shattering insight into the final twenty minutes of Slater’s Slayers’ Third Division Street Football match against the dominant Wakeford Warriors, and arguably doesn’t let up with its high-octane antics until the full-time flare is fired. In fact, apart from a momentary pause to witness Matt Tallon losing his temper at the sudden death of the Slayers’ latest signing, Paul Simpson, whilst watching the match at a local bar, this comic strip initially sticks solely to depicting all the action which takes place on the streets.
Enjoyably, Tom Tully’s successful technique of plunging this book’s audience straight into the thick of things really works well as an inescapable hook. An approach which, alongside all the rule clarifications and sporting lingo, creates an enthralling atmosphere which appears as authentic as the ball game is clearly fatally violent. Admittedly, there is the odd occasion when the writing seems to waver into the utterly fantastic, such as when the Slayer suddenly starts seeing one of his opponents shockingly transform into a bizarre-looking slavering monster and cowers in the corner like a quivering coward. But in the main, the exciting passes, bombs, Droid gun blasts and wall-vaulting acrobatics are as realistically grounded as any perusing Squaxx dek Thargo could demand.
Rather delightfully, the Glasgow-born author also immediately demonstrates that Tallon has plenty of faults of his own rather than lazily being depicted as some sort of super-human star player who’ll effortlessly score with every opportunity. The gifted striker’s forgetfulness not to wear an “approved suppressor” over his bionic thumb almost gets him shot on suspicion of being a droid. Whilst Matt’s poorly-played decoy run late in the match results in him getting dangerously struck in the neck by the ball and later suffers the aforementioned hallucination that he was about to be torn to shreds by some giant horned beast; ““No! N-No..! You… You can’t take me now! Not now! I paid for what I did!”
Adding plenty of grittiness to the street football shenanigans of this sport are John Richardson’s somewhat scratchily-sketched layouts. The artist’s pencilling provides all of the characters with lots of dynamism and athletic ability. However, it’s probably the way he sympathetically draws the sad facial features on Wakeford’s Joe when the player disconcertingly realises his best friend, Harry Carpenter, was nothing more than a robot, which provides this storyline’s most memorable scene.