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 1964
Judge Dredd: Ghosts, Part 2
Woof, this week was brutal! The action was packed so tightly into these six pages that I don’t think I can even describe what happens without spoiling SOMEthing! Writer Michael Carroll wove suspense, surprise, heartbreak, and intrigue together in such rapid succession that my head was spinning by the close of the strip. He’s done a lot of Dredd work in the past, and we’ve sung his praises before, but this particular piece of work felt like a real achievement for him. The story moves along at a brisk pace and never loses a step, which must have been tough considering the limited page count and number of moving pieces.
Of course, for Carroll’s expertly crafted narrative to find success, he needs an equally skilled artist to join him at the helm. This is where fresh-faced art droid Mark Sexton comes in. Despite the fact that this is only his second appearance in the Thrill-zine, Sexton’s art feels like he’s already spent years with these characters. Even beyond his rendering of scenes, his sense of storytelling is what’s really impressive. I try to avoid using terms like ‘cinematic’ to describe comics, but in this instance it feels like the most accurate way to describe this story’s pacing. Little beats, like when Judge Matthews sees a threat before any other person, readers can understand that they are reading a sequence of events that happen over just a few seconds.
All said, ‘Ghosts’ is a five-star strip so far. What started simply as a possible kidnapping has rapidly ballooned into something much, much larger. We’ve already been given the sense that there must be someone or something powerful behind all of this, and now, at the close of this strip, it looks as if Dredd may not be in any sort of shape to hunt them down. We’ll know more next week, I suppose!
Credits: Michael Carroll (script), Mark Sexton (art), Len O’Grady (colors), Annie Parkhouse (letters)
Kingdom: Beast of Eden, Part 4
This week’s ‘Kingdom’ strip was a surprising one. While there has been some world-building in the series previously, this most recent installment feels like a bit of a game-changer. Sort of like when they found the hatch in Lost. You knew things were nuts before that point, but the discovery opened the narrative up in a way that it could expand into the past.
In what has so far been a Conan-meets-Mad-Max, future barbarian story, this week’s turn of events was interesting. There were hints at Gene’s origin, which before now I would’ve guessed he had no interest in. But the revelations around his creation seemed to give The Hackman a bit of pause, or even melancholy. I think its because fighting, survival, and being the alpha has always seemed to be at the top of his priorities list, and one can imagine that those priorities leave little room self reflection. Yet here we are, with the grammatically incorrect, but nonetheless verbose Gene the Hackman responding to the revelations around where exactly he came from with a simple, “I guess.”
Credits: Dan Abnett (script), Richard Elson (art), Ellie de Ville (letters)
The Order: In The Court Of The Wyrmqueen, Part 4
A motorcycle chase through the streets of London, while exciting, is not exactly the stuff that Thrills are made of. But a steampunk-motorcycle chase through the streets of Elizabethan London? That’s something you’d expecting to find only in the Progs!
Following last week’s “Come with me if you want to live” moment, Daniel finds himself under the protection of two people bearing striking resemblance and access to anachronistically awesome technology as Anna Kohl and Ritterstahl from the Order’s previous incarnation. Given the length of time between that incarnation and this one, I’d venture to say we’re seeing more trees that grew from the seeds of the ‘invisible college’ mentioned at the end of the last strip. Which is to say, a secret society with all the cool toys looking to keep us safe from all manner of interdimensional nastiness.Continued below
If they can avoid the nastiness coming after them from right here in the home dimension. Writer Kek-W has tapped real historical figure Lord Walsingham as the Order’s antagonist du jour, making the spymaster Javert to the group’s Jean Valjean (if I can twist and stretch that apology to its breakpoint). Burns keeps things moving as he blends hi-tech with lo-tech as is the series’ mandate. Can’t wait to see what goodies we get next week!
Credits: Kek-W (script), John M. Burns (art), Ellie de Ville (letters)
A.B.C. Warriors: Return to Ro-Busters, Part 4
Actually, that IS Mek-Quake (spoiler?). So just in case you thought Hammerstein was beating up on a defenseless robot who just happened to look like a homicidal, show tunes-singing thug, he is, in fact, delivering a beatdown on a homicidal, show tunes-singing thug who really, really deserves it.
Even Mek-Quake’s owner lets Hammerstein get his licks in without lifting a finger to stop it, which should tell you something right there.
But in between robo-beatings, Howard Quartz of the past is figuring out exactly what Hammerstein is up to when he wears a different face and goes by a different name. That and that the disobedience streak showing up in both Hammerstein and Ro-jaws will spread amongst the other robots like a virus. Which is ad for business and necessitates a swift & brutal physical response.
We’ve seen Hammerstein dish it out in this strip-long flashback. I guess we’re in line to see if he can start taking it as well…
Credits: Pat Mills (script), Clint Langley (art), Annie Parkhouse (letters)
Strontium Dog: Repo Men, Part 4
Some times, life gives you an impossible task. Something so big that you have to think outside of so many boxes you could pile them in top of each other and build a replica of the Pyramids out of them. And then, because things aren’t hard enough, you have to come up with another plan just to get that first one in motion. But while all this theoretical hoop-jumping can be fun because there’s nothing at stake (yet), at some point things have to move from that theoretical realm into the actual one. Boots have to hit the ground at some point, so to speak.
This week, Ezquerra and Wagner introduce the ground to the boots.
Johnny Alpha leads a squad of Strontium Dogs (including one if the Stix brothers) to break into a Galanthian temple and steal the Brain of Hoomonos, thereby being able to enlist the powerful Galanthians in evicting a city’s worth of criminals from a floating asteroid that it’s original owners want to reclaim. You’d think this would be a problem, but Alpha certainly picked the right pack if dogs for this trip. Got a divide you gave to cross? Bring the mutant with the stretchy arm and shimmy across it. Need a door ripped open? The super strong Fix can make it happen.
Ground and boots seem to be getting along nicely. I’m sure nothing will go wrong to vega get get, right? You wouldn’t do that to Johnny Alpha, would you Mr. Wagner?
Credits: John Wagner (script), Carlos Ezquerra (art), Simon Bowland (letters)
II. THIS MONTH IN JUDGE DREDD MEGAZINE 368
Demon Nic, Part 8
Paul Grist has been balancing comedy & drama in ‘Demon Nic’ since day one, panel one. Would it surprise you if I said he keeps doing it through this final installment? Of course it wouldn’t.
We’re horn-deep into the denouement at this point, humes, so I’ll skip most of the recap. Suffice to say that M’Gurk the Soul-Drinker now walks among us and bestrides this world like a colossus…sort of. M’Gurk actually embodies not only an evil so foul It Shall Not Be Named, but also the dichotomy I mentioned a few sentences ago. How does one make the funny terrifying and the terrifying funny? By doing both at the same time. Which seems obvious and redundant, I grant you, but you’d be surprised how often storytellers trying to balance conflicting agendas forget to push in both directions equally. Unequal effort gives you unequal results, so my advice based on Grist’s example is not not try and hedge your bets, but rather be bold in your execution and the mighty storytelling forces will come to your aid. (I may have borrowed a bit of that advice from somewhere…)Continued below
Speaking of bold, I haven’t given Phil Elliot enough praise for his boldness during this run. Grist’s perchance for solid black backgrounds and open-style linework, which Elliot has been coloring for more than a few years now, leaves little cover to hide under in terms of color choices. Any colorists work is going to be front and center. Elliot keeps things primary without making you feel his options are limited, rather constrained by choice. But for as much black as their is in this strip, figurative and literal, my first mental snapshot of it always pops, and Elliot contributes to that just as much as Grist.
Hopefully ‘Demon Nic’ will be repurposed or collected in the same tradition as ‘Numbercruncher’ and ‘Snapshot’ because I enjoyed the hell out of this strip’s 8-month run and would love an easier way to put it into people’s hands.
And with that, bring on next month’s ‘Realm of the Damned’!
Credits: Paul Grist (script/art/letters), Phil Elliot (colors)
Judge Dredd: The Gyre, Part 1
I always find it a little exciting when a creator turns up simultaneously in the Prog and Megazine, particularly if both appearances happen to be on ‘Judge Dredd.’ It happened most recently when Wagner and MacNeil saw ‘Terror Rising’ launch in the midst of their weekly ‘Serial Serial,’ and before that Rob Williams wrote the stoney-jawed lawman in a Megazine one-shot while one of his weeklies was running. Now this week sees another cosmic alignment between the two Thrill-Zines as Michael Carroll claims each pole-position for himself.
I’m not sure if The Gyre is a Michael Carroll creation or something that predates this story, but it certainly FEELS like something that came from the same idea cloth as the Black Atlantic or The Cursed Earth or any other number of environmental atrocities our atomic weapons delivered upon the planet. Set in the North Pacific, think of The Gyre as a 100-km-wide island of trash in the middle of a perpetual electrical storm and general maritime unpleasantness. You’d happily book a week’s vacation in the Bermuda Triangle before thinking of visiting The Gyre. But something lost from MC-1 has turned up there, so Dredd and partner have been sent to investigate and retrieve.
Drawing rubble and detritus effectively is a skill not every artist possesses, but we’re lucky to have two strong trash masters working on the Thrill-Zines simultaneously: Clint Langley on ‘A.B.C. Warrior’ and Nick Percival here. Percival gets to put a bit more of a sheen on his work here than Langley does, but that sheen is drenched with saltwater and peppered with rust, so it’s just as effective as telling the readers this is NOT a good place as Langley’s.
Credits: Michael Carroll (script), Nick Percival (art), Annie Parkhouse (letters)
DREDD: Dust, Part 2
Ok, so remember last month when I said all of that stuff about Arthur Wyatt keeping his movie-verse stuff more grounded than your usual Dredd tale? Welp, today I’ve learned how short-sighted that comment was!
Judges Dredd and Conti have a bit of a vigilante problem on their hands. It seems as if someone is going after a group of perps who have a fair amount of business out in the Cursed Earth. After some detective work, a trap is set. Someone involved with those who have been killed is released from the cubed after a bit of interrogation. Spooked, but cautious, the newly freed Elaine Gertraud leads Dredd right where to another involved party. The only problem is that their vigilante is already on the scene, and seems to pack a bit more of a punch than the usual citizen!
Credits: Arthur Wyatt (script), Ben Willsher (art), Chris Blythe (color), Simon Bowland (letters)
DeMarco, PI: Damocles, Part 2
Here we are, with the third Mike Carroll strip this week!
It’s always frying pans and fires for the formerly wealthy ex-Judge Galen DeMarco. Since leaving the Justice Department, DeMarco has worked as a P.I., freelancing around Mega-City One and beyond. In last year’s ‘The Whisper,’ her work brought her to Mega-City Two, where she investigated a series of disappearances in the city’s Sov-Sec. Now, led by MC-1 Judge Pax, DeMarco has been called back to the scene of her investigation. The reason why is still unclear, but there certainly seems to be a plan in place for her.Continued below
There’s a lot of great in-world mythology at play in this strip. Of course there’s the shadow cast by the ongoing hostilities between Mega-City One and East-Meg Two, which is always quick to color a tale. But then there’s the subtler stuff like ocular implants and secret cybernetic solders. There’s plenty of cloak and dagger stuff going on in this story, making the month between installments excruciating.
Credits: Michael Carroll (script), Steve Yeowell (art), Ellie De Ville (letters)
III. MEGAZINE FEATURES
Interrogation: Mark Sexton by Matthew Badham
We’ve been noticing Mark Sexton’s work on ‘Ghosts’ (because how could you not?) and since his name hadn’t come up a lot before that strip, we had him pegged as a newcomer to comics. Turns out we were only kind of right. Sexton, who grew up on a small tropical island in the South Pacific, has spent a good chunk of his career working as a storyboard artist on such films as Dark City and last year’s Mad Max: Fury Road. But with a Fury Road tie-in comic under his belt as well as his “2000 AD” work, this Australian artist is in no danger of being branded strictly as a newcomer for long!
New Comics: Cry Havoc by Stephen Jewell
Vertigo has been tapping a lot of 2000 AD alums to staff the books making up their latest big push, but they aren’t the only US publisher looking to employ the droids of Tharg. Image has a few as well, and Si Spurrier’s latest book “Cry Havoc” shows that building your publishing schedule with UK talent is a trend that shows zero sign of stopping. And as for what “Cry Havoc” is about, Spurrier has found that outsourcing the pitch description for his book with Ryan Kelly to other people winds up getting descriptions in some ways truer than what he comes up with himself. So when a friend described the book as “not about a lesbian werewolf going to war…except it kinda is,” Spurrier couldn’t help but incorporate that into his shorthand for “Cry Havoc”. And really, can you blame him?
Interrogation: Darren Douglas by Karl Stock
Bit of an ‘Interrogations’ theme going on this month, as we end up with another chat with an artist now starting to do comics after spending time in a day job away from them. But like Sexton, Douglas’s choice of profession is one not TOO dissimilar from sequential art: video game design. Sure, one moves and the other doesn’t, but both require the artist to try and utilize an unlimited budget to bring the most unfettered vision to life on the ‘page’. And like storyboards, working in video games requires a tremendous output that the vast majority of the people enjoying the end-product never actually get to see. But Tharg thankfully plucked Douglas from lucrative obscurity and has set him loose in the Thrill-verse. He’s drawn an Alan Grant ‘Judge Anderson’ strip, as well as an old-school, Nort-shooting ‘Rogue Trooper’ tale by Guy Adams and some other work. Can’t wait to see what level of Prog-work Douglas unlocks next!
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 1964 and Judge Dredd Megazine 368 are 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 Continued below
- Finer comic shops everywhere
So as Tharg the Mighty himself would say, “Splundig vur thrigg!”