Things are ramping up to the big ol’ year-end issue, as can be seen with the rapid successions of conclusions Tharg’s lined up. “Judge Dredd” and “Hunted” wrap things up in this issue, as will “Counterfeit Girl,” “Flesh,” and “Savage” in the next.
I. THIS WEEK IN 2000 AD
Judge Dredd: The Cube Root of Evil, Part 3
Credits: Arthur Wyatt (script), Jake Lynch (art), John Charles (color), Annie Parkhouse (letters)
What a closer! What seemed to be a simple (and quite good) villain-of-the-month story quickly ballooned into something much larger. The citizens of Mega-City One may never know how close they were to falling prey to a cannibalistic conspiracy, but we do.
Some spoilers will follow.
This week took a turn that I really didn’t see coming. Sure, Bierce had the whole cannibalism thing going on, but did anyone see the mad scientist angle coming? The fact that her plan was to normalize her own cannibalism but addicting the entire city to it is sinister to say the least. Couple that with the fact that she got away and I think Wyatt’s got himself a villain he could come back to anytime he wants. The little epilogue he gave her ensures that she’s not only still on the board, but also signifies that she could be in play for a long, long time to come.
Of course, a huge part of what makes the Bierce character work so well is Jake Lynch’s design of her. The hair atop her long, slender neck, the flowing garb, it just works so damn well. His design skills don’t stop with characters, though, as everything we see on panel seems to have received equal thought. Every accessory, background element and cityscape helps to not only reenforce Wyatt’s narrative, but also communicates to the reader what kind of Dredd story this is. We see the monolithic, neo-prehistoric shape of the Mega-City Blocks and know right away what type of strip this is going to be.
All in all, a fantastic “Judge Dredd” strip. I love the Wyatt/Lynch combo, and seeing them together is always a real treat. Hopefully we won’t have to wait too long for their next collaboration!
Hunted, Part 9
Credits: Gordon Rennie (script), PJ Holden (art), Len O’Grady (color), Simon Bowland (letters)
Damn, this is such a good strip! From art to narrative, this one really did the job for me. Granted, I’m missing some Rogue Trooper history, so I don’t know that I got 100% of everything Rennie was putting down, but I got enough. In a way, this type of storytelling feels comfortable to me, following a narrative that the writer will not hold your hand through. It takes me back to all those early 90s “X-Men” comics I devoured, which were deeply rooted in a world that I only had a passing knowledge of. I found that enticing then, and I find it enticing now. It makes me want to find these characters in their other appearances, to dig further into the mythos.
I also appreciate that there seems to be an honest-to-goodness “Rogue Trooper” story on the board again. A couple of years back I was in a conversation with one of Tharg’s script droids, who informed me that The Mighty One felt that there wasn’t a place in the magazine for Rogue at the time, save for the special bumper issues. So I can’t help but wonder if that’s changed, or if Rennie snuck the big blue GI in through the side entrance. Honestly, I sorta hope it’s the latter!
And, of course, Holden and O’Grady closed this one out with as much energy as they entered with. Though I did notice that Holden dropped his halftone use a few weeks back. A coloring consideration, maybe? Or I guess it’s possible that he wasn’t thrilled with it. Either way, I thought it worked well and added a bit of drama to the art. That’s not to say it’s a necessity, far from it, but just that it was a nice touch. Maybe it’ll come back the next time Holden’s tagged for a black and white strip.Continued below
The end of this run leaves the door wide open for things to pick up again in the future. The Traitor General continues to make enemies while Rogue may have made a non-wearable friend, and Rennie seems to have plenty of room to run on this one. Hopefully he’ll reconvene with Holden and O’Grady before too long!
CONTINUING IN THIS WEEK’S PROG
Flesh: Gorehead, Part 9:
Credits: Pat Mills (script), Clint Langley (art), Ellie De Ville (letters)
A guy with ‘vengeance’ carved across his teeth, a t-rex with a ‘666’ brand and a gun fight. Let’s do this!
So, bombast aside, there were a few surprises in this one. They’re things that long-time readers, or maybe even close readers, would already know, but they were new to me. The father/daughter thing was a surprise, as was the bomb in Carver’s head, though I’m a little miffed we didn’t get to see it exploded. That’s not so say it wasn’t used, though, as the bomb was the coercive element that sparked the quickdraw between two generations of Carvers.
Still not psyched on the art on this one. I want to be, because it’s moody and dynamic, but the photo manipulation is something I’ll probably never get over. Seeing actual faces acting out the scenes is just too jarring, and a little weird considering what a good cartoonist Langley is. I’m not chiding for branching out, or implying that he doesn’t do it well, he’s obviously good at the whole photo manipulation thing, I’m just not a fan of how it looks.
One more week to go! Which Carver lived? What’ll happen to Gorehead the branded dino? We’ll find out in seven.
Savage: The Märze Murder, Part 9
Credits: Pat Mills (script), Patrick Goddard (art), Annie Parkhouse (letters)
Twists and deceit, this week sees “Savage” rage along. I’m in about the same place this week as I have been for the last few: I enjoy the bombast of the story, though I’m just not sold on it. It’s fun to watch killer robots being blown up with a grenade launcher, though I don’t really have much of a care for either of the people doing the launching. Goddard’s art continues to look good, as I really like his clean line/dry brush approach, especially when he’s rendering out all of the aforementioned grenades exploding.
Future Shock: Return of the Revolutionaries
Credits: Rory McConville (script), Eoin Coveney (art), Ellie De Ville (letters)
Ok, so this is going to be my second Marvel reference this week, which is two more than I’ve ever made in this column, I think.
This is one of the best “What If…?” comics I’ve read in a long, long time. The premise is a simple one: what if Luke Skywalker’s rebellion failed, leaving him stranded on the Deathstar? This strip is so dense with plot and twists that I can’t really get into specifice without spoiling all the good stuff, so I won’t. What I will say is that I appreciate the two-sided view on activism writer Rory McConville takes for this story. A revolution looks quite different at 20 than it does 40, and McConville does well to capture the breadth of the idea in just a few panels. This is the type of extraordinarily concise storytelling readers have come to expect from a “Future Shock,” which I’ll touch on more in the next section.
Artist Eoin Coveney has done a hell of a job here, as well. McConville threw a lot at him in the script, and Coveney made every inch of it work. He charged headlong into these pages, it seems, as every plane, interior and space battle is rendered to the hilt. Like this issue’s opening strip, Coveney’s art harkens back to ‘classic’ 2000 AD, in all its black and white glory.
II. FURTHER SHOCKS
The droids who create “2000 AD” have been turning out “Future Shocks” for decades now. For those who are uninitiated, a “Future Shock” is a pithy ~5 page strip that tells a story in one go. A conflict and climax topped off with a twist ending is the classic iteration of the magazine’s long-running staple, though there have been some variations. Some are shorter, others have been serials, but most adhere to the template.Continued below
Over the years many creators have taken their shot at creating a “Future Shock,” which many view as the ultimate test of a comic book storyteller. Writers face the challenge of packing and condensing a narrative into the few pages they’re afforded, while artists are tasked with dense pages that rely heavily on crystal clear storytelling. If either stumbles the result would be an unsatisfying mess of the readers. Because of the high degree of difficulty, Tharg often uses the format to test new creators, bending them to see if they’ve got the chops to keep up within the pages of the galaxy’s greatest. It’s not exclusive to newbies, though, as many creators have returned to the well throughout their careers.
Most prominent amongst “Future Shock” writers would be Alan Moore, who’s first crack at this type of story was seen in December of 1980 when Prog 189 his stands. His first “Future Shock,” which featured art by the late Steve Dillon, was a two-parter in the mold of a “Creepy” or “Eerie” strip. Instead of Uncle Creepy of Cousin Eerie, this strip is hosted by Ro-Jaws of “Ro-Busters” fame.
This story, along with others drawn by the likes of Dave Gibbons, Alan Davis, Brendan McCarthy, Bryan Talbot and others, can be found in “The Complete Alan Moore Future Shocks,” which sports an interesting Henry Flint cover that shows Moore as Tharg. It’s an honorary position, I assume.
If you want a little variety in who’s writing, then let me point your attention to “The Best of Tharg’s Future Shocks,” which is a collection that houses some pretty big names, as well as a cover by the great Brett Ewins. Within this volume’s 200+ pages readers will find a healthy heaping of Peter Milligan-penned strips, which actually make up the lion’s share of the book. It’s an interesting thing to see how often Milligan returned to the format, as he racked up 26 stories in all.
The one and only Grant Morrison contributes a dozen stories to this collection, doing so in the mold of Alan Moore. Like Moore, Morrison uses the “Future Shock” as a way to occasionally tell an ongoing narrative, introducing the recently resurrected Ulysees Sweet.
Elsewhere, Paul Smith is represented, with one of his strips drawn by Steve Parkhouse. Interestingly, it’s lettered by Ellie and not Annie. And Neil Gaiman rounds things out with his four contributions to the format. All in all, this is a really solid collection that focuses on four incredibly talented writers. They’d be nowhere without the artists, though, and there’s a lot to look at in this book. The aforementioned cover artist Bret Ewins provides interior art as well, and he’s joined by Brendan McCarthy, Massimo Belardinelli, John Higgins, Steve Yeowell, Colin MacNeil, Barry Kitson, more Steve Dillon, and a lot more.
Either of these volume would be great to have on the shelf, as you can pull one down to kill a few minutes or lose an hour or two.
That’s gonna do it for us this week! “2000 AD” is sale today and available digitally worldwide via:
- The 2000AD app for Apple iOS,
- The 2000AD app for Android devices,
- The 2000AD app for Windows Mobile
- 2000ADonline.com in DRM-free PDF and CBZ formats.
They are available in print today from:
- 2000ADonline.com and
- Finer UK comic shops throughout the UK.
“2000AD” and “Judge Dredd Megazine” are available in print in North America one month after UK release from your local comic shop.
So as Tharg the Mighty himself would say, “Splundig vur thrigg!”