WARNING – REVIEW CONTAINS SPOILERS.

When I picked up the first Stickleback trade, in the Edinburgh branch of Forbidden Planet this week, I was taking something of a shot in the dark as I’d never read any Stickleback strips before. It proved to be a damn good shot as, as the back cover claims, Stickleback really is a modern 2000AD classic.

Stickleback is somewhat unusual in that the main character and his cronies, are out and out crooks. The only real heroic character is the police Inspector who is on his trail, Valentine Bey. The first of the two (lengthy) strips in this trade focuses on the character of Bey, with Stickleback lurking in the background, only making a couple of appearances in the entire strip. This is very effective as it immediatly adds an air of mystery to Stickleback, and when he kills Bey in cold blood at the strips conclusion, it comes as a real shock. The second strip is really where we start to get to grips with Stickleback and his gang of supernatural accomplices. Having established the steampunk style world that Stickleback inhabits in the first strip, writer Ian Edgington is able to use the second strip to introduce us to the criminal gang of Stickleback, and add a few more layers of mystery to the eponymous title character. The choice of D’Israeli as artist was a great one, as his extremly distinctive and innovative art, is perfectly suited to the Gormenghast-style London town.

Throughout this trade are references and hints to other stories, including a couple of cheeky nods to the Cthulhu mythos of H.P. Lovecraft. Edgington is known for tying his different strips together to create a single universe, and that is clearly evident here, especially tying in to another of his 2000AD strips “The Red Seas”. Both the pub (The Jolly Cripple) and one of the main villains (Orlando Doyle) from The Red Seas put in an appearance, although it is certainly not neccessary to have read The Red Seas to be able to enjoy Stickleback.

Sitckleback certainly lives up to the moniker of a modern 2000AD classic. Imaginative storytelling, intriguing characters, and innovative art make Stickleback one that is not to be missed. I suggest you pick up a copy of England’s Glory at once.

9/10

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