The Programme, vol. 1

Summary: In 1991, the Cold War ended without the two primary players ever facing each other in open combat. The vast arsenals of communism and democracy were put on ice, and the world moved toward a new millennium. While the U.S.S.R. disintegrated, the United States rose to unchallenged dominance…but now a long-forgotten Soviet weapon is awakened on one of America’s many battlegrounds, threatening the global balance of power. Conventional warfare is suddenly outdated: the new weapons of mass destruction wield super-powers.

Peter Milligan (SHADE THE CHANGING MAN, JLA CLASSIFIED) and C.P. Smith (Punisher, Wolverine) bring you this tale half a century in the making!

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The Programme, vol. 1, by Peter Milligan and C.P. Smith 8.0

Well, I’m ever more intrigued by Peter Milligan now.

After ‘Greek Street’, which was a decent if mixed affair, I am very pleased to report that ‘The Programme’ is even better. What I find most fascinating is how fulfilling exposition is in Milligan’s hands. He allows for a little action, sure, but he focuses his energy on developing the characters and moving the plot along. And he does it well.

In this mini-series, which is composed of twelve issues total and wraps up with the next trade paperback, he explores an alternate reality in which we discover that Cold War experiments led to the creation of a few failed superbeings – beings that are now unleashed upon the world. The crisis that unfolds pits the United States against Russia once again as both powers try to prevent annihilation.

The artwork is hardly a credit to this book, unfortunately. It gives ‘The Programme’ a distinct flavour, but it lacks definition and it’s relatively dark. Perhaps this helped the series, ultimately, but at first glance I am quite dissatisfied with the work. To be fair, it may not have anything to do with Smith’s penciling or paneling: the inking is too black and Rench’s colour scheme is too constrained.

But ‘The Programme’ is all about the writing anyway, and Milligan offers a terrific set of characters on all sides of the equation. Bizarrely enough, I don’t think that any of them are appealing or especially relatable, but he makes them credible and I understood exactly what he was going for – which, in the end, is all that matters when you’re reading a story. So, obviously, I can’t help but rate the book highly.

In fact, I enjoyed ‘The Programme’ so much that I feel compelled to seek out the second part; I really want to know where it all goes. And, given that it’s a limited series, I know that there will be a game plan – Milligan won’t waste space trying to spread the series indefinitely. He has a tale to tell, he knows his craft, and he is focused. I have no doubt that the next book will be satisfying at least to some degree.

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