Moving from the developing countries of the first volume, we see Eve return from duty to the broken hub that is Britain in the year 2000.
A place where the inner cities are burnt out slums, but have been reclaimed by various gangs like the D.M’s (racist skinheads), the Dockland Dragnet (armed Etonians on scooters) and the Black African Defence Squad (B.A.D.S) who have taken over Brixton and renamed it New Azania (a name with historical links to Africa and Greece). Meanwhile, the aristocracy (including Eve’s father) carries on unabated and the security forces turn their eyes to B.A.D.S. especially when it emerges that Eve’s boyfriend (Rohan) is a member.
The key trope in this volume is seeing the development of Eve from a right on fence sitter, into an active participant in what is going on around her via consuming history lessons about the African people as well as being surrounded by matriarchal rule in New Azania. It is certainly interesting to see her develop this mindset in a warzone that will not abide anyone who stands in the middle and acts as a parallel to a tale in the middle of this volume which involves Belfast native Michael.
Talking about growing up in Ardoyne, and seeing his Protestant friend killed by loyalists, he lambasts Eve for questioning if things have gotten worse in the North:
You English kill me sometimes. You always talk about “over there”. Anywhere but “here”. You always think you’re safe, no matter what the rest of the world is up to. But problems don’t stop at the water’s edge of other lands…you’d think we have a monopoly on violence. Life “over there” can be just as normal as anywhere else.
This leads to an argument with the character of Paul (aka Finn, the eco-terrorist), who had served as a Brit in the North. He concludes that:
You’ve been in Freeaid…can’t you see? Central America…Brixton…Northern Ireland…Underneath, it’s all the same symphony of splintered wood…The tactics used…snatch squads, stop and search, roadblocks, plastic bullets…were developed and used by the Army “over there".
Not surprisingly, the eco-warrior refuses to see the colonialist element within the recent conflict but is happy to do so for similar struggles around the world!
Once again, the artwork from the likes of Carlos Ezquerra, John Hicklenton and Sean Phillips capture the gritty and unrelenting feelings of tension and hostility that arise from urban decay. It has the ability to blend the classic, the scummy and the cartoonish into the same frames. Some feat, I’m sure you’ll agree.
In terms of the writing, we have the same problems as before in that the storytelling can veer towards the didactic. Indeed, Pat Mills has insinuated that the reason the strip did not last as long as it did was because of implicit racism on the part of the readers who were unable to accept a comic with a black lead and a pro-black stance.
While I’m sure there were maybe one or two who avoided Crisis for that reason, it’s an all-encompassing phrase which conveniently ignores the fact that Eve is a difficult character to get behind due to her brattishness, her self-righteousness and her willingness to play off two males at the same time while getting annoyed when one doesn’t want to be with her anymore.
Of course, there have been litanies of tales where the main protagonist is an unlikeable character, so Eve is certainly not unusual in this respect. And with her finally making a decision to get involved with BADS, she follows the hero trajectory which makes it easier to overlook her flaws.
All in all, another testing but worthwhile volume from a time when comics could provoke.
Pat Mills, Malachy Coney (writing), Carlos Ezquerra, John Hicklenton (art) 2021, Third World War: Book Two: Back to Babylon. Rebellion. ISBN-13: 978-1781089293
⏩ Christopher Owens was a reviewer for Metal Ireland and finds time to study the history and inherent contradictions of Ireland. He is currently the TPQ Friday columnist.