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.
I. THIS WEEK IN PROG 1962
Judge Dredd: Street Cred
This week’s Prog kicks off the new year with a Mega-City one shot!
The Big Meg certainly has its share of braggadocios petty criminals. Tall tales of victories and defeats in the face of the Judicial System are a fairly common occurrence in taverns across the city. So when a scraggly nobody tries convincing his peers that he just shot Judge Dredd and was able to walk away scot-free, everyone reacts in exactly the manner you’d expect. But what if he’s not telling a tale? What if he was able to actually do it?
This is the second one-off Michael Carroll has done exploring the shadow Dredd casts across his city. Without getting too spoilery, this story concludes with justice being served without a single Judge lifting a finger. The fear that Dredd strikes in people’s hearts is so powerful, so overwhelming, that citizens will turn themselves in before even tempting the lawman’s ire. Back in November, Carroll penned ‘Sleeping Duty,’ which saw criminals fold under the pressure of Dredd waking up from a nap, and achieved a similar type of ethos building around the character.
On art, Paul Marshall brings his knack for humor and absurdity to these pages. Not in the same over-the-top way he did for ‘Ulysses Sweet’ with Guy Adams, but it’s certainly still there. From the crowd in the bar to the Looney Tunes-esque prelude to violence, Marshall’s art adds a cartoonish humor to the story that compliments Carroll’s drier, blacker comedy nicely. If the art on this strip had been more straight-ahead, I think that all of the humor in the narrative may have gotten a little lost.
Credits: Michael Carroll (script), Paul Marshall (art), Annie Parkhouse (letters)
Kingdom: Beast of Eden, Part 2
Ok, so no weird cosmonauts this week, but there is plenty of stone-serious bad grammar to go around. Or maybe it’s not ‘bad’ grammar, but instead just some evolved version of the English language? Maybe I should be less quick to judge…
There’s a real Mad Max feel to this week’s installment, what with all the weird barbarians hanging off of haphazardly armored desert vehicles and all. Other than that, it feels as if this strip was really just a set-up for a chase/battle, which is this series’ stock and trade. I mean, we’re not reading about war-ready mutant soldiers to see them sipping coffee, right?
Richard Elson’s art continues to impress. One would think that this flat, desert environment would give him an excuse to take it easy. Instead, Elson delivers huge, detail oriented panels that propel the reader from page to page. Plus, he’s unafraid to use speed lines, which, when done well, I will always be a sucker for!
Credits: Dan Abnett (script), Richard Elson (art), Ellie de Ville (letters)
The Order: In The Court Of The Wyrmqueen, Part 2
Gnarly! And I’m not using that in the generic Valley-speak context that probably only three people reading this will remember, but rather the textbook definition of being at bent angles and misshapen. Because whatever shape The Rotting Man has ended up in, John Burns made sure to draw him in ways completely mishapen from the way the human body usually works. And rendered in super-saturated color, just in case you weren’t feeling a touch queasy as it is. That kind of impressionism that Burns layers on top of his work really benefits here (and since the intention here is to make that unsettling, then it is a benefit); we the readers are given a lot of information with the line and color but have enough specifics left out for our imaginations to carry that ball across the icky goal line. Can’t look away…Continued below
We’re back in The Old World from last Prog’s trip to the New; Elizabethan England to be precise. I was beginning to think this followup series of ‘The Order’ wasn’t going to have any connection with the former, but it appears that despite the couple hundred years that passed between the first story and this one, at least one of the original crew is still around. I won’t say who, but it shouldn’t be too hard to guess. Not as hard as it is for Daniel Calhoun there to keep his lunch down after seeing The Rotting Man. Kek-W may seem to be starting far afield from where he left off last strip, but things quickly get rolling back to the type of story we’ve come to expect from ‘The Order’. Which is great for the readers, but not so much for the people IN the story.
And just in case you think those weird masks are an authorial indulgence, oh contraire! Elizabethan physicians did dress with such masks as part of their surgical gear. They were generally covered head to foot in order to protect themselves from the Black Plague. I guess these fellows have cleared The Rotting Man of having THAT particular malady, so they aren’t quite as covered. But the creepy-as-hell ‘surgical’ masks are still worn. Just imagine having the image of someone wearing THAT standing over you trying to ‘help’ you as the last thing you ever see. Makes the barbers with leeches not seem quite so bad, huh? Yeah, I didn’t think so either…
Credits: Kek-W (script), John M. Burns (art), Ellie de Ville (letters)
A.B.C. Warriors: Return to Ro-Busters, Part 2
Seems ol’ Ro-Jaws isn’t quite the “yes” droid that Quartz expected him to be, is he? This shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone reading this strip, even if you just started with this current storyline. Hammerstein is giving us a tour through his memories of Ro-Jaws and that cybernetic lip he’ll give to anyone at the drop of a hat. Seems like that kind of disobedience and perchance of giving the finger (or I guess fingers in this case) to The Man is exactly what the present-day Warriors need to fight back against Howard Quartz. So Hammerstein’s nostalgia is giving new readers a refresher on Ro-Jaws and giving Pat Mills a chance to either retcon or ret-smooth over some of the rough spots in early ‘ABC Warriors’ continuity (aka the Ro-Buster years) while giving the good parts a little shine & polish.
Speaking of polish, Clint Langley was born to draw this series. For a strip with such an artistic pedigree, from Kevin O’Neill to Dave Gibbons to Mike McMahon to Kev Walker to Henry Flint, this strip has never wanted for artistic talent. But just look at these pages (and that cover) and tell me Langley isn’t bringing the goods with this work here. And just to step away from the pure rendering for a minute, his use of texture to space out different grades of ink keeps a lot of these images from being too flat and cluttered on a single plane. Take the first panel in that image above as an example. Langley’s choice of a low angle puts Quartz and Ro-Jaws’ image right up against each other, and his decision to forgo color for these flashbacks takes away an obvious tool to keep things straight visually. But his applying a lighter tone to the viewscreen images lets them stay as detailed as they need to be to inform the reader of Ro-Jaws’ location, while letting them take up a fair amount of panel real estate without choking the life out of everything else. It’s the little details that help build up the big and detailed picture.
And back to the big picture, my Warriors knowledge isn’t deep enough yet to know if the visual change Hammerstein goes through in this Prog originally occurred for the same reason it does here. Given the fast & loose nature of those early strips, I’m going to assume not, but if any Squaxx dek Thargos out there want to clue me in on whether or not that’s the case, I’d appreciate it.Continued below
Credits: Pat Mills (script), Clint Langley (art), Annie Parkhouse (letters)
Strontium Dog: Repo Men, Part 2
Johnny Alpha was just trying to get in a good day’s fishing when trouble rode in on a squad of hoverbikes. It turns out a bunch of Alpha’s old strontium dog (i.e. bounty hunting) buddies were looking to enlist him in an insane job that agreed to do. Johnny wanted no part of it, but the more the scent of action wafted in front of him, the harder it was for him to keep the old instincts at bay. Which means their insane job was now Johnny’s insane job. How insane are we talking?
Remember that huge asteroid city of scum and villany that Johnny visited back in ‘The Stix Fix”? It turns out the original owners of said city want the scummy and villainous villains who’ve been squatting there to leave so they can have their city back. Given how powerful they are and how entrenched they’ve become, trying to pull off that job is like taking the Kobayashi Maru test WITHOUT having your way with the source code first. But Johnny’s got a plan to get the help they need.
And it’s even crazier.
And on top of that, the Dogs take on two new gangmembers: Pikey and Bovus Stix! Two Stix Brothers are now working WITH the Dogs instead of against them.
I’ll give it to Wagner for skipping a whole host of preliminary steps and just going full nuclear bonkers on Johnny’s proposed gameplan. Even the other Dogs, who let’s remember came to Johnny specifically for his help, raise an eyebrow or four at the merest hint of it. (And they being mutants, that could very well have been four eyebrows on the same man.) He and Ezquerra have got to be having fun doing this strip because they are clearly not letting anything get in the way of them telling a mushroom cloud of WTF story that feels like it could have been right at home in 70’s-era “2000 AD”.
Credits: John Wagner (script), Carlos Ezquerra (art), Simon Bowland (letters)
II. OF INTEREST
One of the best things about the Megazine is actually the non-Dredd material. Not that there’s anything wrong with the Mega-City One material, but the fact that such a mag commited to basically one subject still has a dedicated slot for not just other material, but other CREATOR-OWNED material, is great to see. The Megazine has already been home to such strips as Diggle & Jock’s “Snapshot”, Spurrier & Holden’s “Numbercruncher”, and Williams and D’Israeli’s “Ordinary”, to say nothing of Grist’s “Demon Nic” which wraps up this month. But if you’re digging that supernatural meets organized religion vibe that Grist’s strip is putting off, then you’ll definitely want to stick around for the next title to fill that spot: “Realm of the Damned: Tenebris Deos”!
I’ll let PR droid Molch-R give you the breakdown. From the press release:
The world will not end with a bang, but rather with a vicious chord – ‘The Realm of the Damned: Tenebris Deos’ is coming to the “Judge Dredd Megazine”!
The new Black Metal-infused gothic horror series, written by Alec Worley and drawn by Simon “Pye” Parr, will begin in the slot of the monthly anthology magazine in January. This new series blends music and madness into a world where the forces of darkness that once stalked the fringes of reality have finally taken over the world.
The supernatural defence agency known as ‘The Congregation’, a covert wing of the Catholic Church, has been destroyed and its sole surviving operative, legendary monster-hunter Alberic Van Helsing, is now a fugitive and addict. Now he’s been recruited by the so-called Vampire Elite to help them destroy an ancient evil that threatens them all.
The eight-part series will be a hit with all fans of the horror genre as well as legions of heavy metal fans, and is another strong new series for the Megazine. With Parr’s gruesome and gory visuals and Worley’s in-your-face script, Realm of the Damned is the comic your mother warned you about!
“Pye’s artwork is phenomenal,” said writer Alec Worley. “Every spread I’m seeing is more amazingly demented than the last. This is going to be one hell of a debut graphic novel. Readers of the Prog and Meg have only had a taste of what this droid can do. Now they’re in for a feast!”
And what exactly does Black Metal-infused comic booking look like? Something like this:
And if Parr’s name sounded familiar to you, that’s because before going freelance, he was the in-house design droid for Tharg and 2000 AD. And while we were all sorry to see him leave that post, I am ecstatic with his decision if it meant he gets to bring us comics that look this good. There’s definitely a mid-80’s Matt Wagner vibe to his work on this strip, just in terms of line and tone. But he’s clearly channeling some other influences when it comes to giving Worley’s script the lunatic energy it sounds like this strip is going to put off.
My metal tastes run a little more NWOBHM than Black, but for series that looks like as much fun as this does, I’ll throw a pair of devil horns in the air and rock out to the beat these two demented drummers throw down. February can’t come soon enough!
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.
That’s gonna do it for us this week! “2000 AD” Prog 1962 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!”