Welcome back, everyone! Penultimates abound with four-fifths of the strips entering the home stretch this week as we get closer and closer to jump-on Prog 2023. All that plus the conclusion of the Eglington/Cook ‘Judge Dredd’ two-parter. Let’s get right to it!
THIS WEEK IN 2000 AD
Judge Dredd: Thick Skin, Part 2
Credits: T.C. Eglington (script), Boo Cook (art), Annie Parkhouse (letters)
Greg Matiasevich: Dredd gets to the bottom of the exploding celebrity mystery, but can the perp cut a deal with the Lawman of the Future? What do you think?
Eglington continues to show his comfort in handling the milieu and the mentality of Mega-City One. It’s one thing to do stories set in the future, even in a metropolitan dystopia. But getting just the right mix of thrills, commentary, excess, and pitch-black humor is not something every writer can do, especially given the page constraints. Eglington keeps coming back because he’s one of the ones who consistently shows his talent for mixing that Thrill-Power cocktail. I also thought his take on the ‘cure being worse than the disease’ motif, figuratively and literally, was a nice touch.
Mike did a good job of covering a lot of what makes Boo Cook special last week, so I’m just going to add on that with this: one of the ways Cook pulls off that ’roundness’ Mike referred to last week was in not only his color choices, but in the rendering of those colors. I tend to enjoy flatter color use over rendered tones, simply because it’s so easy to OVER-render and complicate things. Better to hold back and do no harm to the image than try and dazzle or improve it (which rarely ever works). Cook seems to render the hell out of those secondary color choices, but even on linework that’s already busy, like Dredd’s uniform or the cityscape in the image above, my eye never gets lost. Later on in the story, when things get even more into the ‘body horror’ realm, Cook knows when to go single-color overlay versus full color to keep things from veering too far into the grotesque, but even the single toned panels are still rendered to a degree. Soft could apply to Cook’s coloring touch as well as his choices, and his work is better for it.
Sinister Dexter: A Rocky Start
Credits: Dan Abnett (script), Steve Yeowell (art), Gary Caldwell (colors), Simon Bowland (letters)
Ryan Perry: Dan Abnett shifts perspectives for this week’s issue and it works brilliantly. We see our two main characters through the eyes of a local bar owner and former cop. This lends itself to the best characterization throughout the whole series, as the cop’s inner monologue tells the reader infinitely more than Sinister and Dexter’s cheesy 80’s dialogue. Abnett still doesn’t let up on the made up words as much as I would like him to and while his dialogue is also still unnaturally stiff, it’s not as noticeable because there isn’t that much dialogue to be had this week. Most of the writing is truly in the monologue which feels infused with a good voice and avoids the attempts at humor we’ve seen thus far in the story.
Steve Yeowell continues to deliver fairly entertaining art for this story, though contrary to the praise I gave him last week, his fight scenes feel really stilted here. He doesn’t demonstrate the same ability to depict motion as he has in the past and therefore much of these fight scenes look cartoony in a bad way. The book also relies on stereotypical depictions of certain characters which doesn’t really help the book feel fresh. It’s hard for something to be exciting when the main characters are fighting a biker gang out of the an 80’s movie. It seems as though the book is trying to do that charming thing Batman: The Animated Series did where everything is from a different time and it’s timeless. The problem is it isn’t charming; it’s just kind of weird. I’ll finish by saying the color was a highlight again this week. We’re within a new setting and it’s fun to see Gary Caldwell get to play with the neon lights of the bar.Continued below
Kingmaker, Part 11
Credits: Ian Edginton (script), Leigh Gallagher (art), Ellie de Ville (letters)
Rowan Grover: “Kingdom’s” first big climatic battle comes to a close as Edginton winds down from the previous chapter’s all-out blitz. The lore and intrigue of the series deepens as the Princess uses her wings to save Adlard and Crixus – a plot device that apparently means her infertility, and a great example of show-don’t-tell in comics. However, Edginton doesn’t give us any chance for a breather – right when we think we’re safe, he drops in the original antagonist, Ichnar the Witch King, in an ending plot twist that wouldn’t be uncommon in a “Future Shocks” instalment.
Gallagher’s art is smooth and a great blend of sci-fi/fantasy tropes as always. This blend works best on the fourth page, where we go from a desolate, stone landscape to the sky being filled with invading space-ships. The opening pages use great sequential storytelling, as you really get a sense of gravity as the team fall. Camera angles constantly shift to replicate the twisting and turning nature, and to make the reveal of the Princess’ wings feel really attention grabbing, Gallagher draws them practically bursting off the page.
It’s interesting to note that as someone who only just caught up on this series, how much the overall quality has changed. I found “Kingmaker” to initially be a Tolkien clone with an interesting hook, and little else. However, Edginton has delivered stellar characterisation over the last few chapters, and developed intrigue without the overuse of dialogue you’d find in a typical fantasy story.
The Order: Wyrm War, Part 11
Credits: Kek-W (script), John Burns (art), Annie Parkhouse (letters)
GM: The fight between The Order and the wryms goes all-out this week, and casualties start to mount. Who will make it out alive? In this strip, the answer could very well be ‘no one’!
I will confess to not keeping up with ‘The Order’ since its last run in the Progs, but stepping right back in with this week’s strip brought back a warm feeling to my heart (… although that could be Ritterstahl’s flamethrower). From Liam’s description of last week’s interlude part, this week certainly kicks things up a notch or ten. And don’t let the 17th century French setting fool you – Kek-W doesn’t let that stop him from throwing in missiles, the aforementioned flamethrower, a giant robot, and more action than anything this side of a Baroness Orczy novel. But it also doesn’t keep him from throwing in a … I hesitate to call it a ‘quiet’ beat, but certainly an effective cutaway from the main action. And if all that firepower doesn’t do the trick, what could Intuitor Browne do other than deliver a sternly worded monologue? With this strip, against a foe the size and scope of the wyrms? That could be enough.
What’s more than enough is the art skills that John Burns brings each and every time he shows up in the Progs. From color to layout to figurework to character acting to even the designwork on the anachronistic technology, he makes these things look so easy. Of course a 17th century giant robot would look like that! He sells this strip and its premise in a way no one else would be able to. Oh, Tharg has a roster full of art droids who could make a great “Order” story, but none of them would be able to make a strip that looks like something from 2017 and like something from a lost 1977 Prog at the same time. Burns may be old school. but his work still teaches classes on how to do comics right every week it’s on the stands.
Kingdom: As It Is In Heaven, Part 11
Credits: Dan Abnett (script), Richard Elson (art), Ellie de Ville (letters)
Bobby D.: Dan Abnett drops Gene the Hackman into another precarious situation as Gene finds is caught with the codes that he and his allies need to end their conflict with the human masters. Abnett has typically written Gene as a character who avoids unnecessary confrontation, so while reading this issue I was surprised to see how it ended.Continued below
The dialogue flows as well as it should, with Gene still being a man of few words. A lot of the plot it carried by other characters, but Abnett manages to give Gene enough personality to never feel like a cardboard box. It always feels like Gene takes his time to assess his current situation as it unfolds around him.
Richards Elson’s art lends to the tension of the issue with a macabre character design that’s used to put Gene in a difficult position. A familiar character reintroduces themselves to Gene, but their appearance not only frightens him, but also causes him to question some of his actions up to this point. The layout for the strip starts out pretty standard, but ends with a visually dynamic panel arrangement on the last page, just as the action starts.
I’m excited for the next installment as the story will surely go in an interesting directions after this Prog’s developments.
That’s gonna do it for us this week! “2000 AD” Prog 2021 is on sale this week 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, and
- Finer comic shops everywhere
So as Tharg the Mighty himself would say, “Splundig vur thrigg!”