♦Tripwire’s Contributing Writer Tim Hayes takes a look at Ro-Busters The Complete Nuts and Bolts Volume Two by Pat Mills, Dave Gibbons, Kevin O’Neill, Mick McMahon, Steve Moore, Steve Dillon and Bryan Talbot
Ro-Busters The Complete Nuts and Bolts Volume Two
Writer: Pat Mills
Artists: Dave Gibbons, Kevin O’Neill, Mick McMahon, Steve Moore, Steve Dillon and Bryan Talbot
Clanking out of the mists of time and back into print again comes more of the world of Ro-Busters, Pat Mills’s robotic mix of Thunderbirds, the Muppets and Mechagodzilla, with bits of Carry On England in there for good measure. Never exactly lost stories, the Ro-Busters tales and related add-ons collected here from the strip’s period in early 2000 ADs may not be unknown territory, but the frenetic pace of Mills’s storytelling when he thinly camouflages a social cause with fantasy – which is always – and the clarity of Dave Gibbons’s artwork still haven’t dated, even if some of the gags might have curled a bit at the edges.
The book includes another go-round for The Terra-Meks, that fondly remembered parable in which callous urban redevelopment plans hatched by the legendarily unscrupulous Howard Quartz – ten percent human, just about – are countered by Charlie, the immense but kind-hearted robotic ship’s pilot who’s destined for the scrap heap. Gibbons makes the most of every opportunity for giant robots to dwarf civilian life while punching each other, and the atmosphere of real-world urban upheaval from 1979 floods over the whole thing – or it would, if the topic had ever gone out of style since.
Also here is The Fall And Rise Of Ro-Jaws and Hammerstein, a sprawling saga in which the two most memorable of the robot crew are victims of Quartz’s corporate downsizing and end up on a quest for a planet where put-upon and exploited robots can be free; some hope. Kev O’Neill and others give the mechanoid cast bags of personality – silent robo-surgeon Dr Feeley Good is a splendidly unsettling creation – and Mills covers so much social and semi-political ground that he may have felt he had little left to say about the ‘Busters after it was finished.
So others take over, for a set of short Ro-Busters stories and tenuously connected Future Shock-y tales of unsafe robotics in general, with input from Bryan Talbot, Steve Dillon and several other talents. Alan Moore and Joe Eckers put the boot into Thunderbirds in Storm Eagles Are Go, setting Ro-Busters against some slick corporate competitors whose international rescuing comes complete with branded bath towels, and whose British agents are Lady Prunella and Jobsworth. Precision literary pastiche in the mighty Moore manner – so some distance from Mills’s agitprop agenda.