In the 23rd Century, food is scarce. In the Cretaceous period there’s plenty of meat roaming around. So why not use the latter to solve the problem? Er… because the local creatures aren’t exactly all docile…
Forget your Cowboys and Aliens – this is Cowboys and Dinosaurs, and it’s great fun. [Well, the first and last stories are Cowboys and Dinosaurs: Flesh Book II has an aquatic basis, and with its giant scorpions and other sea monsters has more of the air of a B movie than the others.]
The idea is a great one: instead of cowboys dealing with cattle in the wilds of Texas, they’re wrangling herds of dinosaurs into giant machines that pop out dino-flesh meals for the hungry hordes. The cowboys think they’ve got the predators held at bay, but even though the dinosaurs may not be as technologically savvy as the humans (in fact, despite one lovely moment where the dinosaurs appear to be driving a car, they’re not technologically savvy at all!), they have an innate advantage over the interlopers: Teeth. And claws. And they make the most of them.
Both Flesh books have two intertwining stories: there’s an old and powerful creature that wants revenge against the humans; and the humans are fighting among themselves, with Claw Carver out for himself, and someone else (Earl Reagan or Peters) trying to stop him. The problem with Book II is that it follows the beats of the first Book a little too closely, but it’s still a good ride. Pat Mills explains the derivation of the themes, pointing the reader in the direction of the movie Soldier Blue, a film which deserves to be better known.
The stories contained within this Flesh omnibus come from varying periods of 2000 AD stretching right back to Prog 1, which makes them a fascinating insight into how things have changed over the past 35 years: the graphic depiction of violence is pretty constant, but the use of expletives goes from none, through derivatives such as frakking, to your basic Anglo Saxon!
Added to the two main tales are some bonus material: the Flesh revival story, Texas, from this year links back to the original Books but ploughs its own furrow (and be warned, the story isn’t finished yet, so the reader is left on a cliffhanger); two short stories that appeared in the very early days which don’t fit into continuity that well, and can safely be ignored; and a brief tale that explains how Claw Carver got his name, which sets up some of the themes examined in Texas.
Verdict: If, like me, you’ve not encountered Flesh before, then you’ve missed a treat. Highly recommended. 8/10
By Pat Mills, Boix, Kelvin Gosnell, Ramon Sola, Massimo Beladrinelli and James McKay
Rebellion Press, out September 15