Sunday, 2 May 2021

The Mean Arena Volume One: All To Slay For - Rebellion [Part Five]

Whilst Tom Tully’s final storyline for this weighty tome somewhat strangely doesn’t depict Slater’s Slayers competing in an actual match, “The Jensens” does still maintain the British writer’s modus operandi for “scrotnig” shenanigans involving plenty of death and destruction. In fact, despite almost the entire narrative being set inside the club’s training complex, it is this six-part adventure which notches up Matt Tallon’s most kills since "the finest street footballer in the world" first started upon his merciless quest for revenge upon the people responsible for his younger brother’s death; “You defended yourself so well, Mister. You wiped out the whole family! Five dead and it’ll be a long time before the Jensen girls get out of hospital.”

Such a heavy death-toll really does show how violent a world the Shadow of the Slayers lives in, and ably demonstrates just why the ‘Big-Shot’ isn’t all that popular with his team-mates despite having elevated them into the national spotlight through his lucrative sponsorship deal with Kosi-Flex Sportswear. In addition, Tully takes the opportunity to use this homage to High Noon as a vehicle for introducing Sheena Lloyd and Ryk Rogan to the comic strip’s audience, as well as providing some much-needed ‘pen pictures’ of Mike Slater’s other players, such as Hangman, Sourpuss, Screaming Sid, Dirty Nigel and Crazy Lil.

Of course the highlight of Tallon’s confrontation against the Malevolent Seven is his no holds barred battle within the Slayer’s drill ground, and how Matt manages to utilise his street smarts so as to outwit his truly vicious opponents. Whether it be simply attaching a ten-second timed limpet mine to a game ball, or simply spooking Hazell into making a rash move by booing at her through a garage window, the author shows this book’s central protagonist exploiting every trick the man has ever learnt during his highly successful sport’s career in order to survive his seemingly deadly ordeal.

Perhaps this tale’s greatest asset however, lies with Steve Dillon’s impressive layouts, and the way in which his pencilling adds enormously to both the sheer sense of Jarl Jensen’s physical menace, as well as the entire criminal crew’s evident notoriety. The Bedfordshire-born artist’s depiction of the aggressive gang gunning down hapless store keepers and chopping up practice droids quickly denotes just how noxious they can be, and arguably makes the way they are subsequently whittled down one-by-one by an equally mercenary Matt all the more impressive.

Script Robot: Tom Tully, Art Robot: Steve Dillon, and Lettering Robot: Pete Knight

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