Shiny Shelf

Mr T #1

By Mark Clapham on 09 July 2005

Well, if anyone thought that the collapse of Dreamwave and the stalling of MVC’s ‘Masters of the Universe’ comics had killed off the 80s retro fad for good, they’re clearly wrong, as here’s a comic featuring that most 80s of icons.

No, not Neil Tennant.

(Although, come to think of it, wouldn’t that be great? Like ‘Sebastian O’, but in the 80s, with Chris Lowe as his faithful working class sidekick. ‘Come Lowe, the miners are revolting and only we can stop them.’ Art by Paul Pope.)

Eh… anyway, it’s Mr T, of ‘A-Team’ and ‘unwatchable Saturday morning cartoon’ fame. T is pretty cool, but outside of the BA persona, surely it will be a little hard to work a book around him?

Writer Chris Bunting’s solution is to do a kind of black urban ‘Dark Knight Returns’ schtick. Mr T was once the hero of the inner city, keeping the streets safe from drug dealing scum. Hero of the huddled masses, he was convicted of a crime he didn’t commit (sound familiar?). Since getting out of jail, he’s been lurking at home, effectively prevented from delivering justice due to his criminal record.

This first issue sees one of Mr T’s old friends go out in search of him to help stop a drug dealing gang who are terrorising the neighbourhood. This is all well and good, but disappointingly over-decompressed. It’s a perfectly good – albeit overearnest considering the cheesy subject matter – read, but 22 pages where the lead character doesn’t fully emerge until the final page isn’t exactly selling the concept on its strengths. How can we know whether we want to pick up the second issue without seeing the main character in action?

Furthermore, in this first issue there’s no real sense of a distinctive uberstory lurking in the background – designer drugs and neighbourhood gangs are the subject matter of a million films, TV shows and comic books, and I have a crate load of Mike Grell ‘Green Arrow’ comics that do the ‘urban vigilante’ thing perfectly well already. Why do we, the overstretched readers, need this title in particular?

This is not a bad book, by any means. Bunting’s writing is strong, capturing the voice of the lead character well. The art of Neil Edwards and Randy Emberlin is well-suited to the script, laying thick inks across the sinister, night-in-the-city setting. Pretty good show all round, really.

Unfortunately, I’m not convinced this one has what it takes commercially. The comic isn’t quite strong enough at this stage to justify picking it up monthly, and as mentioned above doesn’t make a unique case for itself with such a slowly paced first issue.

Critically, I’m not convinced that the licence is an asset rather than a handicap – are there that many hardcore Mr T fans out there, rather than people who find him an amusing subject for nostalgia? And how many of the latter group will write the book off as a cheesy retro item without picking it up?

If the subject matter appeals, you should give this comic a try, as for what it is it’s rather good. However, I rather suspect the comic market will respond to the title as I have – it’s nice enough, but in a crowded marketplace rather inessential.

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By Mark Clapham

Mark Clapham is a Devon-based writer and editor. You can find out more about him at the egotistically named

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