Comic Review – Chopper: Surf’s Up

Marlon ‘Chopper’ Shakespeare has come a long way from being a wall-scrawling juve in Mega-City One. Having mastered the art of Sky Surfing, Chopper became a hero of the people by winning Supersurf 7 and escaping the Judges to compete in Supersurf 10. But a narrow defeat to Jug McKenzie and a close encounter with Judge Dredd sent Chopper out into the Radback. Now he’s back and intent on re-claiming his title and keeping his freedom.

Collected together for the first time, here are the further adventures of Mega-City One’s greatest rebel, brought to you by Chopper co-creator John Wagner (Judge Dredd, A History of Violence), Garth Ennis (Preacher, The Boys) and with luscious artwork from Colin MacNeil (America) and John Higgins (Watchmen) amongst others.

Chopper: Surf’s Up

John Wagner, Garth Ennis, Alan McKenzie, Colin MacNeil, John Mccrea, John Higgins, Martin Emond, Patrick Goddard

304 pages
Paperback, 8½” x 12″
ISBN: 9781907519277
First published: December, 2010

Anyone who’s had a passing association with the Judge Dredd strip over the last 30 years will not have failed to bump into the character of Chopper. First introduced as a graffiti artist, he upgraded to sky surfer a few years later, but always remained on the wrong side of Dredd’s attention. Each of his appearances ended up being a stonewall classic story though, from his introduction in Unamerican Graffiti, to the Midnight Surfer and through to the Dredd epic Oz. All of these stories have already been collected in the relevant Dredd Casefiles, but this collection picks up where the Chopper solo stories started.

Weighing in at just over 300 pages and costing a penny less than twenty quid, this is a fairly hefty volume, and when you glace at the artists involved, such as John Wagner, Garth Ennis, Colin MacNeil, John Mccrea, John Higgins, its not just the page count that attracts.

The collection starts of slowly with the Oz postscript Soul on Fire. As a postscript story it’s a little jarring, and can leave the reader thinking that they’ve missed a chapter somewhere along the way, which is pretty much the case. It’s a nice introduction to the character and his place in the Dreddverse though, and nicely sets up the next story and the shining light in the collection.

Song of the Surfer is undoubtedly the highlight of the book. Moving the action from the Australian Mega-City of Oz to Mega City Two, this is the story of the world championship Supersurf 11, which, due to the vision of a Mega City Two billionaire, has been turned into a vicious blood sport.

No longer do the sky surfers have to cope with tricky obstacles and a challenging course, now they are up against snipers, napalm cannons and disintegration weapons. Again, things start slowly in the build up to the big race, but then the gun goes, and what follows is one of the hardest hitting stories to ever grace the pages of 2000AD.

The visceral images of surfers being blown apart and gunned down is hard enough to see, without the horrified reactions of those watching to counter it. But this pales next to the juxtaposition of the enthusiastic and upbeat reporting of the sports journalists covering the race in a tone that is not unlike Murray Walker commentating on the Battle of the Somme. Through the blood and the horror comes the story of the determination and the courage of the one man who would claim the title of the greatest sky surfer.

Song of the Surfer is a magnificent story, and its publication was called 2000AD’s finest hour. Its inclusion in this collection is worth the price on entry alone. It’s only natural, then that the rest of the collection becomes something of an anti-climax, and therein lies the problem. Once Song of the Surfer has been read, nothing else is really ever able to match up. A Garth Ennis story follows which has little to recommend it other than some nice John Mccrea visuals and a nice bit of humour surrounding Oz’s Chief Judge and some compromising photos.

The book continues with a couple of nice enough stories including the holding of Supersurf 13 in a newly rebuilt Mega City Two, and a John Wagner written heist story that rounds out the book.

This collections reminds me very much of the Judge Dredd: America book released a few years back. One breathtaking story surrounded by stories which, by comparison, seem little more than journeylike. Don’t let that put you off though. Like America, the highlight soars so high that everything else can be considered a bonus. Unlike other stories such as America, Slaine The Horned God, Johnny Alpha’s final story in The Final Solution, The Dredd epic Necropolis and other stories released in the early 90s, Song of the Surfer has slid off the radar a little bit, and is one of the unremembered and unappreciated classics of 2000AD. For anyone who has any interest in either 2000AD, John Wagner, Colin MacNeil or the character of Chopper himself, this book is an absolute essential.

GS Rating: 4/5

GS Reviewer: The Hod

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