Welcome, Earthlets, to 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 British sci-fi comic “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 worth of zarjaz comics waiting for you to discover and enjoy.
This week brings us a brand-new Prog, so let’s jump right in!
I. THIS WEEK IN PROG 1996
Jaegir: Warchild, Part 1
Credits: Gordon Rennie (script), Simon Colby (art), Len O’Grady (colors), Simon Bowland (letters)
Greg Matiasevich: This week sees the return of ‘Jaegir’, and with it, Kapiten-Inspector Atalia Jaegir. While this is the fifth ‘Jaegir’ strip overall, with a setting and overall concept spinning out of the long-running ‘Rogue Trooper’ series, it is safe to say that this installment requires no prior knowledge of any of that. The best kinds of spinoffs are those that can stand on their own legs, and ‘Jaegir’ (unlike the unfortunate Nort chauvinist in panel one) stands as an example of how to spin off from another series without being beholden to it.
One of the ways strip co-creator Rennie accomplishes this is by having no direct ties to the originating series. Rogue Trooper does technically show up once, but he does so in a dream that uses his specific image as more of an Easter Egg nod than a particular continuity point. The ‘Jaegir’ concept that Atalia is a military officer (serving in a totalitarian regime’s army) investigating their war criminals is both straightforward enough to be understood outside of the ‘Rogue Trooper’ context, and reiterated enough by Rennie throughout the story in both dialogue and plot to be set for new readers. And a straightforward series concept gives him more room to delve into Atalia as a character, a much better use of his talents.
Of course, having Simon Coleby & Len O’Grady rendering the world around that character also buys you room to work. Coleby on lineart and O’Grady on colors just sell the oppressiveness of the land and regime Atalia serves under. Everyone we see has scars, whether we can actually see them or not, because they have to live under a weight that you can’t see but the art team makes you feel. Yes, this is science fiction; and yes, Coleby can render the hell out of military technology and cool gunships and the like. But Coleby and O’Grady are drawing as much from the spirit of 20th century dictatorship regimes and soul-crushing architecture as anything from an imagined future.
Fun stuff, huh?
I’m not going to lie and say ‘Jaegir’ is a laugh riot, because it isn’t. But it has been one of the highlights of the Progs since its debut a few years ago. And with the new story Rennie and company start in this Prog, where one of the few ghosts from Atalia’s past she can’t drink or fight or run away is looking to make contact with her present, can’t help but be another must-read Thrill.
Judge Dredd: Ladykiller, Part 6
Credits: John Wagner (script), Carlos Ezquerra (art), Annie Parkhouse (letters)
Mike Romeo: Well, we have a winner. This week’s strip has the single best bit of dialogue you’ll read this month. Hell, maybe even this year!
Message from control, my former robot called in. Gunderson, Death’s landlady, was abducted at the Quite Nice Bar. Perp identified as PJ Maybe.
It’s quite like an onion, isn’t it? The layers just keep peeling back. I can’t tell if that’s the most precise or confusing way that Wagner could have spelled out who Mrs. Gunderson is, but everything you need is in there. Once upon a time she was Judge Death’s landlady, but the sweet old lady was too deaf and farsighted to have any idea as to who it was that she was boarding. And a fun aside: Gunderson is the only person that Death did not find guilty of a crime, and this is a guy who considers the mere act of living to be a punishable offense!Continued below
And the robot in question? Why, that’s dear old Walter! Back when Judge Dredd had an apartment he had a robot butler who’d draw his bath and tidy up for him. You know, usual robot butler stuff. And in their years of living together, Walter found a deep affection for Judge Dredd. And as much as he’d hate to admit it, I think the grizzled lawman felt the same. Now, without a need for a home or a butler, Dredd has tasked Walter with looking after Mrs. Gunderson.
By now I hope it’s clear what types of characters Wagner’s brought onto the stage. These two are from a very special, extraordinarily wacky corner of “Judge Dredd” comics. They represent the most humorous and irreverent aspect of an otherwise joyless character, so to see that PJ Maybe has designs on them is especially troubling.
Meanwhile, Carlos Ezquerra has done a particularly noteworthy job this week. It gets a little redundant to constantly heap praise upon the guy, but damn it does he earn it. His interpretation of Gunderson, how much he’s able to pack on every page, it’s masterful work. I even feel like he’s pushing himself to draw especially curvaceous women this week, which is not his usual wheelhouse. I can’t really remember a time when he’s gone for the bombshell type, so considering that they’re all men really drives home the totality of PJ Maybe’s transformation. It’s a subtle approach to take, but it’s one that I find helps land Wagner’s story. As always, these two make for a fine storytelling team.
Scarlet Traces: Cold War, Part 9
Credits: Ian Edginton (script), D’Israeli (art), Annie Parkhouse (letters)
GM: Interesting Venusian factoid: the sap of the Gaius Blossom burns cold when lit on fire, and also releases a scent that many large predators find unpleasant. So if you were to, say, find yourself stuck in a Venusian forest and not want to be eaten, igniting some Gaius Blossom sap would be an excellent idea. But just because a fire doesn’t burn hot does not mean that it’s something you want to jump out of the frying pan into, as our trio of heroes are finding out this week.
Stuck on the fourth planet from the sun with renegade Martian/human hybrid Iykarus and his mate Iyra, Ahron Shakespeare still has to try and help the renegade stop the Makers from completing their plan of destroying Mercury and wiping out all life in the solar system.
Having escaped Maker captivity, the three are now hiding out in the Venusian wilds. In addition to getting the factoid above, we also get to supply D’Israeli with more opportunities to draw alien creatures and landscapes, which can never be a bad thing. Once again, it doesn’t seem like there’s going to be a whole lot of paradigm-shattering with the plotting of ‘Cold War’. But hitting tried-and-true adventure beats doesn’t have to mean boring, and D’Israeli & Edginton continue to make this series a visual treat.
Again, like last week, I find the bit sticking with me after I’m finished is Edginton’s continuing showcase of how Shakespeare is balanced between two cultures. Born of one but grown under another, Shakespeare’s explanation to Iykarus about how his parents decided to emphasize their new home and culture to their son instead of trying to carry over every single custom or nuance is one that could be lifted out and dropped into any story in any genre with a second-generation immigrant character without any real re-writing necessary (well, you’d probably want to swap out ‘Earth’ with a particular country on that planet if you were going non-science fiction.) And that type of connection to universal experience anchors the rest of the explosions and aliens and whathaveyou in a way that too much other science fiction, or genre fiction in general, misses completely.
Outlier: Survivor Guilt, Part 7
Credits: T.C. Eglington (script), Karl Richardson (art), Ellie de Ville (letters)
Adrian Johnson: Captain Luthra, Jess and Caul are in a captured Hurde starship that has been retrofitted by the Alliance to intercept the coming Hurde armada. Caul is their link to access the star gate that will bring them to the armada’s doorstep. But the trio find that they have unwittingly become pawns of the Alliance themselves.Continued below
Eglington’s scripting is really starting to crackle. It’s bringing to the fore the grand scale, intrigue and double-crossing that you would expect from your space opera. With the team of Luthra, Jess and Caul finally assembled, the story is zooming along like an express train. A funny note on the interaction between the three of them: Luthra and Jess have punched and knocked out Caul a couple of times in the last couple of installments in order to facilitate getting him aboard with their plan. In this installment, Jess has to knock out Caul again. When I turned the page, the script addressed exactly what I was thinking in that wow, they’ve really knocked Caul upside the head repeatedly in order to get him to this point. Though perhaps not wholly undeserving as Luthra comments shortly beforehand since Caul had tried to kill her in the previous story arc.
As the arc has starting to build its steam and expand to the aforementioned grand scale, so has the artwork. Richardson is doing yeoman’s work with his double duty on the linework and colors. He has a couple of shots in here that are really cool; particularly a panel of the Hurde villain Carcer walking down a corridor of his ship flanked by two hulking guard droids. Bad-a**! In regards to the colors, I’ve noticed over the last couple installments (including this one) that Richardson has liberally splashed a green tint to many of his panel featuring the interiors of ships or command rooms. The tint often is out of sync with the light sourcing of the figures in the panel, but I like the way it adds atmosphere and mood quickly. It’s similar to the way early James Cameron films had a perpetual cyan tint that was vital to his unique visual trademark. I would even conjecture that Cameron’s Aliens has been an influence for Richardson as it is itself a ‘green’ movie and pretty much set the standard for the look of militaristic space operas thereafter.
Anderson, PSI Division: The Candidate, Part 4
Credits: Emma Beeby (script), Nick Dyer (art), Richard Elson (colors), Ellie de Ville (letters)
AJ: Anderson and her rookie partner Flowers have split up to handle parts of their investigation of the assassination attempts on Mega-One City mayoral candidate Carol Smart. Anderson goes to learn more about the candidate’s past to garner any clues for motives; while Flowers protects the candidate herself. However, both discover revelations that take the investigation into treacherous psychic territory.
Beeby is really crafting a very good tale here. Her script has kept me guessing in terms of who the assassin is and what is their goal. However, there is a twist in this installment that seemed obvious but not until it was revealed does it make complete sense within the wider scheme of the campaign and influencing voters. By the same token, we also learn the story of the bloodied little girl featured in flashback in the previous installment. Everything ties together quite nicely; although I dread to find out the details of the little girl’s backstory.
Something else I should mention is that this is my first exposure to Beeby’s work. She was briefly featured in the outstanding 2014 documentary Future Shock! The Story of 2000 AD and lays claim as the first woman to write Judge Dredd. I think Beeby is excellent without the qualifier of gender. Her scripting with this arc is impressing me to seek out more stories by her. I haven’t garnered the opportunity to read her Dredd stories proper as yet. I will definitely be keeping my eye out for them and anything else Beeby will be scripting.
I’m taking an increasing shine to Nick Dyer’s work beyond my fondness for his homage to 2000AD great Mick McMahon. There are a couple of sequences in this installment that were very well done; particularly a half page panel of Anderson reading the thoughts of a case worker to find out more about the candidate Smart. It’s an inset panel within the face of the case worker with Anderson’s hands on either side of his temples. It’s the type of inventive panel work that is in short supply in comics overall to me; so I always love to see that type of thing in contemporary work and in service to the story.Continued below
That’s gonna do it for us this week! “2000 AD” Prog 1996 is on sale today and available digitally worldwide on:
- The 2000 AD Newsstand app for iPad and iPhone,
- The 2000 AD app for Android devices,
- 2000ADonline.com in DRM-free PDF and CBZ formats.
They are available in print today from:
They are available in print in North America next month from your local comic shop.
So as Tharg the Mighty himself would say, “Splundig vur thrigg!”