John Smith (Writer) • Paul Peart (Artist)
Reviewed By Tarn Richardson
Slaughter Bowl is an addictive mix of Running Man meets Jurassic Park. It is the year 2029 and the annual global sporting event of the year, watched by billions, is the Slaughter Bowl, a death race which pitches man-riding-dinosaur against man-riding-dinosaur, with the only guarantee: death to all competitors and their Jurassic steeds bar one, but millions in dollars and worldwide fame for the last man, and dinosaur, standing.
Only the craziest and most depraved of competitors would dare enter, hence the reason serial killers on death row participate, mean enough to have half a chance of surviving, and dead anyway if they stay in prison. Among the cast of these bad arse sportsmen, we have white supremacist Ripper McGraw from South Africa, housewife killing ’The Spook’ from America, murdering Siamese Twins the Nancy Boys from Canada, and big gun hunting and three-year champion Mr Throat.
Into the mix, we add Stanley Modest, a bland, unassuming and pitiful writer of greetings cards, who loses his job and is framed for multiple murders, including those of his children. Not only broken-hearted and horrified at the crimes levelled at him, but he can also now no longer pay for the life-saving surgery his wife needs to save her from certain death.
Sent down by an uncaring judicial system, incarcerated on death row, molested by the various unsavoury characters in the high-security prison and knowing all is almost certainly lost for him and his wife, he hears of the Slaughter Bowl and its prize money. Supposing that his life is over anyway, he realises that there is still an outside chance, slim though it is, to survive long enough within the Bowl to raise enough money to at least save his wife.
Whilst it all sounds very convoluted and utterly preposterous, it’s a credit to John Smith’s clever writing that the story actually rolls seamlessly from Modest’s old boring life to prison life and on to Slaughter Bowl life, with such panache that you cannot turn the pages quick enough to get to the start of the race.
For the most part, Paul Peart’s artwork is fantastic, nicely balanced between the sublime and the ridiculous story. Where things begin to unravel slightly is the race itself. I found that it wasn’t always easy to follow the panels or the action contained within them, and you certainly don’t get a sense of the size of the event or the number of competitors. Expecting something visually grand and inspiring, you’re left feeling a little bit underwhelmed, not to mention occasionally confused as to just what happened to whom, how and when.
For all that, Slaughter Bowl is a greatly enjoyable reading experience, delivered with a tongue firmly stuck in a cheek with the focus on entertaining and not worrying about offending people. This is a comic that gives the reader plenty of humour, blood and guts, great one-liners, terrific action and a very good ending.
Included initially in the 1993 ‘Summer Offensive’ by 2000AD to retain readers and expand the readership, Slaughter Bowl was one of the more successful stories published during that time and it’s great to see it back in a collected format, albeit digital-only.
The classic ’90s strip Slaughter Bowl is the latest digital-only collection from 2000 AD!
It’s the worst day of Stanley Modest’s life. He’s been fired, no-one likes him, and the doctors want to pull the plug on his dangerously ill wife. To top it all off the police find hundreds of bodies buried in his house – including his own children!
Although he protests his innocence he is convicted and ends up on death row.
For Stanley, there is only one way out – the Slaughter Bowl! A deadly battle royale where criminals riding dinosaurs attempt to annihilate each other for cash and prizes!
Collected in digital-only graphic novel form for the first time, this unforgettable strip was part of 2000 AD’s 1993 Summer Offensive, when writers Mark Millar, Grant Morrison, and John Smith were let loose to rewrite the recipe for thrill-power with an all-out assault on the senses!
Will Stanley survive? Will he earn enough for his wife’s life-saving surgery? And where did all those bodies come from? Find out for yourself in Slaughter Bowl!
You can buy the Slaughter Bowl directly from the 2000AD Shop
You can download the 2000AD App HERE
Tarn Richardson was brought up a fan of fantasy and horror, in a remote house, rumoured to be haunted, near Taunton, Somerset. He is the author of THE DARKEST HAND series, published by Duckworth Overlook in 2015-2017 and republished by RedDoor in 2019. Comprising of THE DAMNED, THE FALLEN, THE RISEN, and free eBook prequel THE HUNTED, the books tell the epic story of Inquisitor Poldek Tacit, battling the forces of evil to the backdrop of World War One. He has also written the novels, RIPPED, and THE VILLAGE IN THE WOODS, to be published in 2020 and 2021. He lives near Salisbury with this wife, the portraiture artist Caroline Richardson, and their two sons.
Official Website www.tarnrichardson.co.uk
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