I knew that Alan Moore had done some work early in his career for 2000 AD, but I’d never seen most of it (unless you count Halo Jones, which I think was serialized in 2000 AD first?) So I was excited to read through “Future Shocks,” compiling his work from the magazine.

In the event, the book was a little disappointing. Certainly, if you didn’t know the author, you’d be hard-pressed to guess that he was destined for future greatness. The stories are mostly three to six pagers, and they’re fairly rote, smug twist-ending sci-fi tales. A ravening race of conquerors heads off across the universe, destroying everything in their path…but space is curved, and they end up despoiling their own home world! A woman clubs an older lady and steals her car…but the car time-travels, and eventually it turns out that the women the younger lady clubbed was herself as an old woman! There’s even one that pulls the hoary old gambit of having the captions natter on about an invasion of disgusting aliens…and then at the end, you learn that the disgusting aliens they’re talking about are humans.

Not that the book is bad. The art — by folks like Ian Gibson, Dave Gibbons, and Alan Davis — is uniformly professional and enjoyable. And there are hints, here and there, of Moore’s future. You can see his facility in a couple of rhymed nursery morality tales, more reminiscent of Hillaire Belloc than of standard sci-fi fare. And in one or two places you can see his unusual (for pulp comics creators) ability to write non-stereotypical female characters. In “Going Native” for example time-traveler from the distant future goes back to study neanderthals. He becomes friends with one of the neanderthal woman, Murr. Like the other neanderthals, Murr’s appearance is apelike and animalistic. Nonetheless, over the course of the four page story, as the narrative mostly speaks of other things, we see her humor, her intelligence, and her strength. At the end of the story, the time-traveler falls in love with her, not despite her appearance, but because he has come to see her as beautiful…as, at least to some extent, has the reader. The story is both bizarre and touching, prefiguring the Swamp Thing/Abby, monster/human love story in some ways…though with the gender of the monster (and the human, for that matter) reversed.

Most of the best moments in the collection, though, come from Moore’s humor. I had always thought that his ABC joke strips, like Jack B. Quick, were a new departure for him, but, as it turns out, they were just a return to his roots. Most of my favorite gags in “Future Shocks” volume come from Moore’s Abelard Snazz stories. Collected at the end of the volume, they read like a more bitter Douglas Adams. In one memorable tale, Snazz (who is a professional genius with (literally) four eyes) — decides to help some down-on-their-luck gods gain new worshippers. So he updates their images; Demeter, for instance, becomes the God of organic foods, while Ares becomes the God of space invaders machines (“Hey!” as one bystander comments, “That’s my kind of omnipotent being!”) To Snazz’s horror, however, the old Gods haven’t shed all their past ways, and, soon enough, gamers are performing human sacrifices atop arcade machines in order to improve their scores. Other Snazz adventures involve spaceships powered by the good thoughts of particularly saintly worms, giant tennis players with the uploaded bio-brains of John McEnroe, and gigantic Rubik’s cubes that take six million years to solve. It’s all quite clever and bracingly mean-spirited; a nice conclusion to an uneven, though overall enjoyable, volume.