The Final Solution is without doubt one of the most controversial strips to ever run in 2000AD. Both story wise and art wise, it remains a hotly debated story twenty plus years after it originally saw print. But with the recent “Life and Death of Johnny Alpha” strips, I feel it is perhaps time to look back on the now not quite so Final Solution.

The decision to kill off Johnny Alpha was a bold one,  besides Dredd he was arguably the most recognisable character to ever grace the pages of 2000AD. But if your going to kill off such a major character then you have to come up with a hell of a story to see them off with. In this regard The Final Solution is mostly a success. Over almost thirty parts, The Final Solution is a suitably epic finale to Alpha’s adventures, putting the mutant population, as well as the Strontium Dogs themselves, in peril like we had never previously seen in the strip. The New Church (under the control of Sagan and his mother) having secured power of New Britain, decide to send the entire mutant population to a new dimension, so as to be rid of them once and for all. The mutants are promised a new utopia in which to form their own society, free from the day to day persecution they are forced to endure from the norms. However on arrival in the new dimension, they find it to be a desolate land where they can either look forward to starving to death, or more likely be killed by one of the mysterious Lyran creatures roaming through the skies. Attempting to rescue the doomed mutants, Johnny Alpha finds himself banished to the dark dimension. Things start to go wrong for him pretty quickly there, having his eyes ripped out (as graphically portrayed on the front cover), before being brutally killed by one of the creatures. Reading it for the first time, Johnny’s death remains a truly shocking moment, even if you know that he’s going to die before reading it. Its a very bleak story, but as a send off for the character of Johnny Alpha it succeeds admirably.

Art wise however, its a very different story. The first twenty three parts are in black and white, and are drawn by Simon Harrison, who has come in for much criticism for his work here. And its very easy to see why, for starters he seems to have real difficulty in drawing human beings, making the norms look more like mutants than the mutants do (for some reason Sagan seems to have a very pointy head). His Johnny Alpha is very strange as well, making Johnny look almost animal like in appearance, while Middenface Mcnulty seems to be drawn with a round nose. Some panels even look half finished, like Harrison couldn’t be bothered to finish them, and I had to squint to see what was going on. Worst of all, when Johnny has his eye’s ripped out its very difficulty to actually tell what has happened to him, when drawn by Harrison. Thankfully Colin Macneil takes over on art duties after part twenty three, and things improve greatly from there. Switching  to colour, Macneil’s art is far superior in every respect to Harrisons. Having finished the strip I can’t help but wish that Macneil had drawn the entire thing which, as well as having the benefit of being in colour, I feel would have people looking back on The Final Solution far more favourably than they currently do. But we should at least be thankful that Macneil was able to save the strip from the total disaster it would have been had Harrison drawn the whole thing.

With “The Life and Death of Johnny Alpha” strips we now know of course that Johnny didn’t actually die after all. While this does somewhat diminish The Final Solution as a story, I fell it doesn’t take any of the dramatic effect away from it. Although I was to young to read it at the time it was published, I can imagine how shocking and dramatic it must have been to read at the time. Indeed it would certainly have an effect on a certain Simon Pegg, who would see fit to reference it in an episode of his comedy series Spaced. If you haven’t read The Final Solution yet, then I can still recommend it as one of the most landmark strips in 2000AD history. Just make sure to be prepared for Harrison’s artwork.