Tripwire Reviews Slaughter Bowl

Time To Get Slaughtered

Tripwire’s contributing writer Tim Hayes casts his eye over Rebellion’s Slaughter Bowl out now…

Slaughter Bowl
Writer: John Smith
Artist: Paul Peart
Rebellion

Rebellion’s digital-only reprints from past eras of 2000AD brings another of writer John Smith’s stories back into view, this one from the 1993 Summer Offensive period of stories overseen by Smith, Grant Morrison and Mark Millar. The Offensive threw out some deliberate provocations designed to raise a mild ruckus – anything like Big Dave and its Viz-style venom seems unlikely to reappear in the current all-ages era of 2000AD Regened progs – but Slaughter Bowl is more restrained by Offensive standards, notwithstanding a note in the small print about stereotypes that might offend. It’s pretty restrained by John Smith standards too: just a comedy sci-fi horror story with death row convicts riding dinosaurs in a multimedia game show of violence, a plot which pulls together so many bits and pieces from fantasies either around at the time or still to come that it’s more or less The Running Death Race Gamer Park.

In the Tunbridge Wells of 2029, middle-aged put-upon sad-sack Stanley Modest loses his job shortly before finding his entire family murdered and ending up on death row in (for some reason) Montana USA convicted of the crime, a chain of ludicrous black comedy circumstances only there to get him conscripted into the annual Slaughterbowl contest alongside 74 other ultra-violent convicts. Sponsored for very little money by Kidderminster’s BBQ Relish, Stanley and an imp co-pilot supplied by the organisers (since no one else wants to work with him) ride a dinosaur through a series of lethal death traps against other far more skilful riders on far more lethal dinosaurs. Much slaughter ensues, before Stanley learns answers to a few questions about himself that he might wish he hadn’t asked.

Paul Peart draws the strip with the right kind of brawny comedy for the story, a mildly underground vibe added to some very 1990s exaggerated violence and the kind of evolution of its original classic British comics styles that 2000AD was after at the time, although Smith works the climax up to such a frantic pace that the art has to fight for space. No Smith story is ever just what’s happening on the surface; Slaughter Bowl arrived when fictional serial killers were becoming a fixation in the cultural scene and Smith is too tuned in not to have something to say about that. But compared to the earnest mind-expanding Ditko-style psychic voyages of Smith and Simon Harrison’s Revere, which Rebellion republished in this format in January, Slaughter Bowl is a quick splatter satire about a stereotypical English weakling releasing the angry bastard within and revenging on some Americans while he’s at it, which ticks several 2000AD boxes at once.

Slaughter Bowl is out from 3 June

 

 

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Time To Get Slaughtered Tripwire’s contributing writer Tim Hayes casts his eye over Rebellion’s Slaughter Bowl out now… Slaughter Bowl Writer: John Smith Artist: Paul Peart Rebellion Rebellion’s digital-only reprints from past eras of 2000AD brings another of writer John Smith’s stories back into view, this one from the 1993 Summer Offensive period of stories
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