Battle of the Planets: Trial By Fire
by Munier Sharrieff, Wilson Tortosa and Shane Law
Titan Books, 2003, £7.99, 80pp
ISBN 1-84023-607-8

This reviewed first appeared in The Alien Online

Come on, most of you of a certain age out there know exactly what this is just from the title alone: it's G-Force - Mark, Jason, Princess, Keyop and Tiny; it's school holidays; it's an endless series of giant robots invading Earth. Who knows, for some of you it's probably space-hoppers, Spangles and Chopper bikes too.

Nostalgia has been big in comics in this last year; relaunches of Transformers, Thundercats and Battle of The Planets have all done very nicely indeed - financially speaking, at least. Questions have been raised about standards of creativity, originality and, let it be said, maturity, because Battle Of The Planets was a children's cartoon series from over 20 years ago. I don't care what anyone else says, Battle Of The Planets was a children's cartoon series from over 20 years ago. It was never Crime And Punishment.

God knows, I remember it as fondly as anybody: pin-drop quiet descending upon a houseful of hyperactive kids as that fanfare of trumpets at the start of the theme music began. But I'm over 20 years older now. Is there (can there be?) anything in Battle Of The Planets for me today?

First of all, the artwork is great, plucking strings of instant recognition in the memory. Clean, brightly coloured and really rather beautiful, it's a lot like the original but (as you'd expect) better. And there's blood, too - not bucketfuls of the stuff, but enough to make you aware that this is an updated BotP and not the spotless original.

Sharrieff keeps the dialogue simple but effective, building stresses and strains in the team dynamic and among individuals that will, again, be familiar but are now more intense, playing to the strengths of the new form. The level of characterisation here isn't likely to become a threat to Dostoyevsky, but there are some depths and corners that can be looked into in future without betraying the tenuous continuity of the original.

One thing that is lost in the translation to paper from screen is, oddly, much of the tension of the TV series - when the Phoenix went fiery or G-Force were in a tight spot the animation and the music worked extraordinarily well together to create some real tension (I can still hum some of that old incidental music…); in similar situations here this seems to slip by too quickly. The artwork goes a long way towards compensating, but this is a collection of only the first three comics and what with (re)introductions, updates and exposition there isn't a lot of room for that memorable tension.

Suspend your disbelief, leave your cynicism at the door, sit down and enjoy Battle Of The Planets. It's not the greatest comic you'll ever read, or even the best one you'll read this year, but it's bright, beautiful and optimistic, a small hit of nostalgia that by itself is surely harmless.

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