Still Fighting The Good Fight
♦Tripwire’s Contributing Writer Tim Hayes takes a look at the latest Bad Company collection, by Peter Milligan and Rufus Dayglo
Bad Company: First Casualties
Writer: Peter Milligan
Artist: Rufus Dayglo & Jim McCarthy
War is still hell for the members of Bad Company, even though their conflict against the creepy Krool has been over for ten years. For readers of 2000AD the gap was even longer than that, before the unit of soldiers made into fan favourites by Peter Milligan and Brett Ewins returned to the magazine last year for a brand new story, now collected in this volume.
First Casualties finds Danny Franks, Thrax, Mad Tommy Churchill and the rest of the Bad Company crew living in a veterans’ compound under medical care, although life there is anything but restful. Medicated up to the eyeballs so as not to be driven insane by post-traumatic flashbacks to the war, poor Danny – still distressingly fresh-faced under the damage and depression, as Rufus Dayglo and Jim McCarthy draw him – wakes up screaming anyway. Then real life takes a turn for the scream-worthy, reuniting Bad Company with their not-quite-dead after all comrade Kano and leading them to wonder whether their memories of the war might not be entirely accurate. Perhaps the truth was even worse than they think.
A presiding spirit inhabiting any Bad Company story will always be Brett Ewins, co-creator of the strip who died in February 2015, and the new book is full of affection for Ewins in both words and images. A new character, Golgotha Joe, with a troubled soul but a good heart, bears a strong resemblance to the late artist, although Dayglo’s art doesn’t aim to recreate Ewins’ style. Instead it features plenty of Dayglo’s more anarchic panel-bursting spikiness, a different effect that suits the Company’s aggressively wired and paranoid state of mind.
The Bad Company strip first sprung up in the 1980s, when American culture was occupied with trying to process the Vietnam War and 2000AD was as usual processing US culture itself. Since then, as Milligan notes in his introduction to this book, “we have been pretty much continually in one war or another,” a sentiment that points towards the book’s pessimistic disbelief in endings. When Bad Company was first in the trenches, even they could just about expect that their suffering might have an end point. But First Casualties travels a decade down the line into our own war on terror and knows better. Milligan’s anti-war howl is an eternal truth, although his villains – untrustworthy leaders, lying media, a mayor looking a lot like Boris Johnson – have been in the frame since time immemorial, and they’re still at anyway. Not that it doesn’t bear repeating.