Welcome, citizens, to this week’s installment of Multiver-City One! Every Wednesday we examine the latest offerings from Tharg and the droids over at 2000 AD, the galaxy’s leading producers of Thrill-Power entertainment! Between the weekly “2000 AD” itself, the monthly “Judge Dredd Megazine”, an extensive library of graphic novel collections, and new US-format one-shots and mini-series, they have decades of zarjaz comics for you to enjoy.
We’ve got a brand-new Prog AND Megazine this week, so we’ll jump right in after a quick public service announcement!
We understand that having such a large selection of comics to choose from can make knowing where to start with 2000 AD seem daunting. What do they publish? Where can I get it? What’s up with Judge Dredd? Can I still read “2000 AD” if I don’t like Judge Dredd?
So to help new & potential readers, we’ve put together An Earthlet’s Guide to 2000 AD. This FAQ collects everything you need to make your initial foray into the 2000 AD Thrill-verse as simple as possible.
II. THIS WEEK IN PROG 1945
Grey Area: Contact
It’s back! After a brief hiatus, Dan Abnett and Mark Harrison have returned with a new chapter of the lives of the galaxy’s greatest customs agents!
Things begin with the familiar: Abnett laying out naming the conventions and associated etiquette of this alien planet, and Harrison cutting loose and presenting this world in an absolutely gorgeous manner. But there’s a difference, too. You see, it seems that Bulliet, via Abnett’s invisible hand, has figured on a plan. A plan for what? well, getting his captors to believe that there is a world-ending God Star on its way to devour the planet.
This was all done in a rather clever way, as we see Bulliet figure out how to play the game on this planet. Up until this point, he’s been shut out by the powers that be, and so his warnings have gone unheeded. But now it seems that he’s added a little fork to his tounge, stroking the ego and teasing the curiosity of someone with some semblance of power. Double talk turns to flattery and, before you know it, Bulliet’s truth becomes clear to all parties involved. But what happens now? Will everyone believe him now? Will the knowledge he’s passed be allowed to enter the collective unconscious? Has Bulliet, by breaching this shared psychic union with knowledge of all beyond the union, somehow introduced something akin to a virus with the potential of ending this isolated little world he’s stumbled upon?
Credits: Dan Abnett (script), Mark Harrison (art), Ellie de Ville (letters)
Tharg’s 3rillers: Apocalypse Anonymous, Part 1
All the Squax dek Thargos out there know the score with the 3rillers, but just in case you’re joining us for the first time, here’s the deal. Tharg’s 3riller’s are three-part stories that pop up every few months here in the Progs. Longer than a Future Shock, shorter than a usual strip, the stories picked for 3rillers are the ones that need this amount of page-time to deliver maximum Thrills without overstaying their welcome.
Speaking of overstaying one’s welcome, this 3riller shares a concept with another strip running this week, although set almost 100 years after it. While ‘The Alienist’ shows a newspaper sending in a priest, a psychic, a witch, and a skeptic to sniff out the truth about a haunted house in a picture reminiscent of late 19th century parlor games and Agatha Christie novels, here we see the 21st century upgrade: a chopper full of locked-and-loaded mystics packing heat and ready to go kick some demon ass in war-torn Syria!
I’m digging the dichotomy Murphy is setting up for this story, but O’Conner & Ryder are really selling it with the art. A great way to set up tension in a story is by introducing characters that look professional and prepared…right before you pull the rug out from under them. I mean, look at the size of that cannon the dude in panel 2 has slung over his shoulder. How could he fail with that thing?Continued below
I don’t think it’s spoiling things to say the mission doesn’t go according to plan. But HOW this one went off the rails (and gets back on if it can) is the big question that this team now has 10 more pages to answer in. Can’t wait to see it!
Credits: Robert Murphy (script), Sean O’Conner (art), Abigail Ryder (colors), Annie Parkhouse (letters)
Helium, Part 12
What goes up, must come down. And in ‘Helium’, the only way things seem to come down for Hodge and company is hard. Will she be able to walk away from this strip’s crash landing of an ending (metaphorically speaking)? I can answer yes because Tharg gives us a note saying the strip is coming back, but if a production error left that little hopeful grace note off the last page, I’m don’t think a return would be a given. Hodge, her partner, and the fleeing professor they’ve managed to keep one step ahead of the literal army of people coming after him have gotten away from certain death before. But this one seems like a long shot.
Edginton and D’Israeli killed on this strip. Did you think I was going to say anything else? That this last week would make me take a nosedive from my previous 11 weeks of praise to say their partnership has turned more poisonous to a satisfying readership than the Poison Belt looming so large in this strip? Of course I wasn’t going to, because it’s not true. D’Israeli and Edginton have been collaborating for nearly 25 years at this point; that’s longer than Brubaker & Phillips, Sale & Loeb, or Bendis & Oeming, to name a few off the top of my head. They know what they’re doing, and what they’re doing is making awesome comics. I’m actually grateful this strip is taking a break because I’d just about run out of way to keep saying this same thing every week. They may be having time off, but I’m going to be spending it hitting the books to bulk up my vocabulary (and trying to figure out how our heroes are going to get out of that last predicament)!
Credits: Ian Edginton (script), D’Israeli (art), Ellie de Ville (letters)
Judge Dredd: Enceladus – Old Life, Part 7
After the events of last week’s strip, this chapter feels like a place to take a breath and inventory the situation. In short: it’s bad. So bad. Napalm’s been dropped on the sector, but has done nothing other than cause widespread destruction and, presumedly, cost lives. It’s done absolutely nothing to stop the former Titan colonists, and has probably even made their assault on the city a little easier. Judge Maitland’s appearance sort of summed things up nicely: Justice is learning too slowly. It’s been this way from the moment Dredd was dispatched to Titan. Judges make decisions and commit to actions without fully understanding the scope of a situation, setting themselves back with every mistake. Maitland figured out that the returned former Judges can reform, but by the time that information was shared it was far too late.
While being woefully close to the napalm drop, Judge Dredd has somehow made it out of the rubble. Despite his ‘still living’ status, he looks to not be long for this world, as Henry Flint illustrated in an ever-so-excruciating way. It looks like a good percentage of ol’ Joe’s body is now a mess of deep tissue burns, leaving him sweating and staggering his way through the strip.
So what do you say? Wanna do spoilers? If the answer’s ‘no,’ then jump on down to our “Alienist” review.
Ok, so there are a few thing to unpack. The first is the conversation between some of the Titan-Judge-Monsters. It seems like they might understand as little about what they’ve become as the Judges. I mean, one is marveling over the fact that they were able to regenerate after the blast. He make reference to Nixon being right, though, so has she been given information that the others weren’t? It seems like the closer we get to seeing how these former Judges became what they are today, the more complicated the answers seem to become.Continued below
Next: The intercontinental team of infrastructure Judges have arrived on the surface of Enceladus, where they seem to have found… something. Whatever the power source that Nixon found is, it’s still glowing. Not only that, but it seems to be calling out to Brit-Cit Judge Edward Sam. Judge Sam is the wide-eyed rookie we first saw at the open of “Old Life.” He and his team have been ordered to travel from Titan to Enceladus in order to figure out what exactly happened to Nixon and her fellow prisoners. On Enceladus, it seems that Sam is drawn to the same hole in the ground we saw Nixon standing over. You know, back before she was an indestructible ice monster. Anyway, Sam and the rest did the only logical thing you can do when you find a glowing hole in the ground that whispers to your subconscious: climb into it!
I thought the fact that Sam can ‘hear’ Enceladus calling to him was interesting. We discover this through a bit of inner monologue, in which we learn that he’s always wanted to be an architect and build things. Better things. This left me wondering if the rest of his crew could hear the moon calling to them as well? It seems not, as a few expressed reluctance towards climbing into an unknown gaping maw. So why Sam? Why Nixon? Is there a connection between the two? If Enceladus has some sort of sentience, does it look for beings with deep desires? Is Sam’s need to build going to play against Nixon’s need to destroy? I’m not asking questions to be coy, these are just some of the unknowns we’re left with.
Lastly: the horse. After being caught in the blast of napalm, Judge Dredd was given and order by Judge Maitland, who seems as if she may be the last council member. Find Hershey. Bloodied and raw, Dredd collapses in the snow. Laying there, presumedly close to death, he has a thought.
“I have a question a question for you. What do you need to keep going?”
Now, I do not know what this reference is. It reads like a memory, like something posed to Dredd by someone involved in this story. I went back and pulled everything related that I have off of the shelf trying to find it. At first, I assumed that this was something from the first time Nixon and Dredd met, back in the aftermath of that bombing (collected in Mega-City Undercover vol. 2.) But not it wasn’t there. I skimmed Dirty Frank/Dredd and Hershey/Dredd conversations, too, but came up empty handed. If anyone out there in tv land has a clue what this is from, I’m all ears. Leave it in the comments below.
All of this is leading up to the horse. After the flashback(?), Dredd looks up to see a black stallion cutting through the snowstorm towards him. I’m sure that some readers may have had a head scratch after seeing that, but we’ve seen this mysterious equine before. Let’s cast our minds back to “Judge Dredd Megazine” #344. That issue’s lead story was “The Man Comes Around,” a one-off strip by Rob Williams (the very same) and RM Guera. In it, Dredd deals with a man who’s using a gas-induced power of suggestion to create a legion of sort-of suicide bombers (homocide bombers?) in order to reclaim some sort of control over his own life. In the course of thing, Dredd gets a snoutful of the gas and things get weird. Amongst the weirdness is the Judge’s encounter with, you guessed it, a black stallion on one of the upper floors of the block.
When the smoke cleared, and the day was won, Dredd was given a once over by a pair of Med Judges. They want to get him into a speed heal, as the gas he was exposed to actually causes the decay of human tissue. Dredd makes a comment about it also causing hallucinations, to which the Med Judges give him a, ‘I guess maybe? But probably not?’ response. They also remind Dredd about his bionic eyes (yeah, and they’re square!) and that fact that they should make it impossible for him to hallucinate. Armed with this information, Dredd closes out the strip by radioing a request for all animals registered to the block.Continued below
And then we never heard from the horse again. Until today.
So what’s going on? Is the horse actually there? It’s appeared twice now, both times after Dredd has suffered serious injury to a large portion of his body. Is there a connection between the the horse and this specific type of injury? Or is it proximity to death? Is it some sort of spirit animal? Can anyone else see it? I feel like, for as much as I’m writing, I’m asking a ton of questions, too.
This week’s strip really felt like a tipping point, though I’ll be damned if I can tell what direction we’re falling. Some key figures seem to be missing, possibly dead, and Judge Dredd is now on some sort of vision quest. Thing feel like they could be wrapped up soon, but it also feels like we may have spilled into major-event territory. That’s the thing about 2000 AD, they don’t broadcast when the big stuff is coming. They’ll pull something like “Trifecta” out, letting it build naturally and catch readers by surprise. You know, Williams and Flint were both involved in that story, too. Kinda makes you wonder…
Credits: Rob Williams (script), Henry Flint (art), Ellie de Ville (letters)
The Alienist: The Haunting of Hex House, Part 2
As you can probably tell from that image, things got a little out-of-hand last Prog. The woman missing the top of her head was part of a newspaper-sponsored stunt to prove the existence of ghosts in a haunted house by inviting a psychic, a clergyman, a cynic, and a white witch to investigate the place. As the group was trying to flee after the psychic blew her top, they were stopped by the arrival of Sebastian Wetherell, alienist and mesmerist! And his assistant Madelyn Vespertine, standing behind him and out of the spotlight. Wetherell told the group they had to remain inside the house, which was now encased in a ‘death-shield’, and thus we were introduced to the latest in a long line of men protecting the world from supernatural forces!
Only, in the case of ‘The Alienist’, it’s not Wetherell that’s the expert. It’s Vespertine.
Rennie & Beeby have a pretty nice setup for this strip. We not only get to see all manner of supernatural threats and spookiness, but the protagonist has a built-in sympathy from the reader by being a competent woman trying to operate and save a society that prefers her seen and not heard. Wetherell is, for lack of a better term, the beard in this instance. Seeing this dynamic established in the strip’s first appearance back in last year’s Winter Special made me immediately think of one of my favorite Sherlock Holmes films, Without A Clue. In it, Watson (played by Ben Kingsley) hires actor Reginald Kincaid (played by Michael Caine) to play the public role of Sherlock Holmes after public demand to produce the famous detective in the flesh became too great to ignore. But in Kincaid’s case and to Watson’s constant suffering, he is a womanizer, gambler, and a drunkard. The film itself is hilarious if for no other reason than to watch these two actors play off each other.
In the case of Wetherell and Vespertine, it looks like Beeby & Rennie haven’t gone the full Kincaid with their duo. Wetherell throws in a little ad-lib this week, but Vespertine seems to have a genuine rapport and respect for him. I’m sure the fact they deal with actual otherworldly horrors instead of society crimes has sobered things up for them pretty early on. While there is gold to be mined in watching dysfunctional teams still try and achieve their goals, the writers of ‘The Alienist’ are more interested in putting the focus on Vespertine and her trying to face the real obstacles rather than deal with a buffoonish actor.
Credits: Gordon Rennie & Emmy Beeby (script), Eoin Coveney (art), Simon Bowland (letters)
III. THRILLS! OF! THE FUTURE!
In addition to all those words up there, we’ve got at least another four thousand for you this week. But before you click on that ‘Close Tab’ button, you should know that those words come in the form of four pictures. But these aren’t just any old pictures. These are glimpses into what’s coming down the pipeline for “2000 AD” and “Judge Dredd Megazine” in the weeks and months ahead. These are Tharg-approved…THRILLS! OF! THE FUTURE!Continued below
We start with the return of one of this column’s debut strips back in good ol’ Prog 1850: Aquila! This new storyline, entitled ‘Charon’s Mercy,’ finds our favorite nigh-unkillable slave-turned-gladiator-turned-tool-of-godly-punishment free from his servitude to Nero and back on the streets of Rome circa 71 AD.
Going from a B&W preview to one in glorious (or is that goriest, in this case?) color shows us that The Order is coming back for more medieval techno-Thrills. Kek-W and the nigh-unstoppable John M. Burns brought this strip to life back at the beginning of the year, and are looking to extend that run into the next one.
As if doing two “Wild’s End” miniseries for BOOM! as well as the “Dark Ages” miniseries for Dark Horse wasn’t enough, Dan Abnett and I.N.J. Culbard are coming together yet again to give us this new Thrill: Brink! I know as much as you do from looking at this picture, including that I want to know more! It’s Culbard and Abnett…how could you NOT want to see more of that!
And finally, we’re switching over to the Megazine and back to B&W, but I’ll take whatever I can get because this last Thrill is a new Dredd story by the ‘America’ team of Wagner & MacNeil! Called ‘Terror Rising’, I have no idea if it will tie into that earlier saga of theirs, or the more recent ‘Mega-City Confidential’ story, or set up something completely different. But I do know I can’t wait to read it! (I’m sensing a theme with my reactions to these upcoming Thrills…)
That’s it for now, humes. We’ll keep you posted as we learn about more…Thrills! Of! The Future!
That’s gonna do it for us this week! “2000 AD” Prog 1945 is on sale today and available from:
- The 2000 AD Newsstand app for iPad and iPhone,
- The 2000 AD app for Android devices,
- 2000ADonline.com in print or DRM-free PDF and CBZ formats,
- Select US newsstands, and
- Finer comic shops everywhere
So as Tharg the Mighty himself would say, “Splundig vur thrigg!”