Welcome, Earthlets, to Multiver-City One, our “2000 AD” weekly review column! Every Wednesday we examine the latest offerings from Tharg and the droids over at Rebellion/2000 AD, the galaxy’s leading producers of Thrill-Power entertainment. Let’s get right to it!
THIS WEEK IN 2000 AD
Judge Dredd: War Buds, Part 2
Credits: John Wagner (script), Dan Cornwell (art), Abigail Bulmer (colors), Annie Parkhouse (letters)
Greg Matiasevich: The intensity of war can forge bonds between men stronger than the ones of family or country. So when a group of Apocalypse War vets find out one of their own is slated for euthanasia, the choice to bust their comrade out of the hospital and head for Texas City, even at the cost of their own freedom, is no choice at all. But they aren’t just any survivors. These men backed up Dredd on his suicide mission to end that war and had a front-row seat as he nuked East-Meg One into submission. The fallout from that decision has already cost one of them his sanity. What will the final tally be for these ‘war buds’?
Cornwell really gets into the Ezquerra vibe and rendering for the flashbacks without parodying them. That specific level of detail-grain Ezquerra uses is so easy to overdo that I admire Cornwall even attempting it, let alone pulling it off.
This week’s chapter splits its time between eras, showing both the start of the present-day rescue mission and the end of the Apocalypse War. Each of the rescuers flashes back to a bit of their time with Dredd as they get ready, and these transitions are handled differently than I’d have imagined. Flashbacks (or forwards) are traditionally given some kind of visual cue to differentiate them from the narrative present; either an alternate & usually flatter color scheme or a change in panel borders set off one story thread from the other. Cornwell and Bulmer keep things the same in both past & present, and I like the choice. It not only avoids any kind of distraction, it also sells the point of the War still being as real to these men as the lives they now lead. My ‘Apocalypse War’ hardcover isn’t handy at the moment, but if Cornwell isn’t directly reconstructing panels from those Progs, he’s certainly giving Wagner’s flashback dialogue the proper setting it needs to hit just as hard 35 years after being first delivered.
“You’d turn our own weapons against us? Niet! Never! I would die a thousand times before I betray my city!” declared one of the Sov prisoners to Dredd. His reply?
“I’d settle for just once.”
And that’s not even the best line of the week!
The only snag in this temporal back-and-forth is in the lettering. Unsung hero Annie Parkhouse uses an italic font for the flashback sequences and roman for the present day, which works well enough to help sell the different eras. Except that the italic font is accidentally used in two of the present day panels as well. Definitely fixable in the trade and not something worth getting sent to the Cubes for, but a slight bummer none the less.
Wagner not only recaps the nuclear conclusion to the Apocalypse War, but manages to get the readers well into Ham, Mac, and Morant’s mercy mission before the final panel. Anyone want to take bets it goes off without a hitch? I didn’t think so. There’s a reason every heist movie is about the job that DOESN’T go according to plan. Only seven more days until we see just how pear-shaped things have gone!
The Alienist: Inhuman Natures, Part 5
Credits: Gordon Rennie & Emma Beeby (script), Eoin Coveney (art), Ellie de Ville (letters)
Alice W. Castle: Things continue apace in this chapter of “The Alienist,” even if it does feel like things are being condensed a little too much. Last week, we saw Reggie and the mysterious girl from another place ambushed by strange creatures and this week we see them confronted by Professor Praetorius who claims that the girl is, in fact, the harbinger of doom she says she is protecting them from.Continued below
This isn’t necessarily a bad chapter, more that the major story beat of the chapter is left to the last couple of panels with little room to breathe. The majority of the chapter feels pretty flat, truth be told, with the sick-changers never really feeling like a threat to Reggie and the girl (called Little Bird by Praetorius). Especially given how Praetorius and Vespetine can just rock up on the scene without really attracting their attention. With the supposed threat falling flat, giving up most of the chapter Little Bird’s escape with Reggie means Preatorious’s revelation (if you can call it that) has only three panels to play out in.
It’s a strange feeling, where the important part of the chapter is condensed to the final three panels while most of the chapter is stretched across four pages to little effect. I still really want to like this, but the structure and pacing have felt off these past two chapters.
Greysuit: Foul Play, Part 7
Credits: Pat Mills (script), John Higgins (art), Ellie de Ville (letters)
Ryan Perry: This narrative doesn’t make sense. One of the things that a story told as an anthology needs to do is make sense as separate parts. This story doesn’t meet that qualification. It’s made up of disparate parts and the narrative simply does not flow. The story completely jumps from one setting and scene to another in the middle of a side panel. We then begin to follow two characters we’ve never met before without really being introduced to them. We simply jump into their conversation which while not really introducing you to the characters is extremely expository and beats you over the head with facts such as one of them is an empath. We also learn that the new character we meet is apparently our lead characters next target, yet we aren’t given much of a reason for why he’s coming after him.
I’ve praised the coloring in this series several times before, however, in this issue it’s heavy handed and there are many times when the contrast is too high. There aren’t any real stakes to support the use of the warm colors. Some of the line work is also sloppy in this issue. There are instances of John Higgins attempting to depict things more realistically than he has been and the images are very static. He does draw water really well though. The issue does open with a page of action that looks fantastic though. It’s depicted explosively with much of the color used really well to give the action appropriate warmth and depth.
Hope: . . . For The Future, Part 9
Credits: Guy Adams (script), Jimmy Broxton (art), Simon Bowland (letters)
Greg Lincoln: In part 9, Guy Adams, Jimmy Broxton and Simon Bowland take Mallory Hope into the vile den of scum and villainy known as The Whispers. A mysterious call and his intuition have led him to find Joey Fabrizzi, at the Gentleman’s club owned by the mobster known as Fats. The Whispers is kind of club that caters to gamblers and those with more carnal desires behind closed doors. Earlier in the story, Mallory learned that Joey’s now dead father owed a debt to the clubs owner and though it’s a questionable trail he doggedly follows it. The writing and art in the chapter are up to scratch but somehow it’s all felt a little flat and stiff compared to the previous two.
I think the first thing that subtly threw me was the amount of conversation this week. I think I had gotten used to the voice-over narration style that has dominated the last two chapters. The several page back and forth between Mallory and Fats sadly played a bit tone deaf for me. Their dialogue reveals aspects of their characters that build on the story but it really didn’t grab me. Perhaps I just miss that imagined running Harrison Ford Blade Runner monologue.
Though Jimmy Broxton’s opening page with the telling ghostly overlaid occult alphabet characters evoked and built initial tension. The following pages though played a bit stiff as Broxton revealed the seamier side of Hollywood with S&M scenes surrounded by flat black pages. Somehow the black gutters drew my attention rather than the panels themselves. His handling of Mallory’s confrontation with the cadaverous Fats though it involved fists applied to the club owner played a bit stiff and got lost in dark surrounding them. Even though very well rendered Broxton’s lively faces and expressions only hit me really in the final reveal panel. I think the stylistic choice for the pages downplayed the impact of Broxton’s art as the dialogue silenced some of the tale for me.Continued below
This chapter seemed a necessary narrative bridge to get us to the next event. I wish it had grabbed me visually and textually like the previous parts. I’m still intrigued as to how it will all play out but it was odd to feel like I was playing the part of the voyeur here.
Tharg’s 3rillers: Mechastopheles, Part 2
Credits: Gordon Rennie & Lawrence Rennie (script), Karl Richardson (art), Annie Parkhouse (letters)
Rowan Grover: Holy hell, these guys know how to make a good comic. The second part of this story introduces more context and story background, though still slowly and never overbearing. We get enough backstory for the gigantic Mechastopheles to satiate us, but always keep us interested, and I love how dangerous and temperamental they made it – is connected to the psyche of Leonardi. The Rennie brothers subtly combine the sci-fi and Victorian aspects of the comic too – both elements feel natural, and aspects of either aren’t overly focused on to the point that they feel out of place and gimmicky. To cap it off, Beatrici is an awesome protagonist – headstrong, but smart and with a hint of father issues to keep things interesting.
Karl Richardson’s art hits every right note here, in terms of storytelling and characterisation. From the first page, you can see already that Richardson is playing with giving Mechastopheles some personality – in between dialogue boxes and scenes of Beatrici, you’ll witness the great mech stand and keep vicious guard over their sanctuary in Vonitzia. The character action is tense, albeit in small amounts. The gang resides in an abandoned library that is small enough that you can feel the claustrophobia between characters as they converse and bicker – knocking into each other almost to prove a point. My only qualm with the art is that the scene in which Mechastopheles rips off the roof of the library, the zoomed out section seem overly detailed for something far away. It’s a bit jarring to the reader to see the sharpness of it, and feels like more work than was necessary for Richardson.
I’m glad this has continued to be an incredible comic. The Rennie brothers, Richardson and Parkhouse all pool together to push what was simply an incredible story name into being a fantastic, batshit crazy piece. And that last page! Whoo boy, do these guys know how to drop a juicy hook.
That’s gonna do it for us this week! “2000 AD” Prog 2046 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!”