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. This week sees the release of Prog 2050, a comic specifically formulated by Tharg to be a perfect jumping-on point for all the Thrills you could ever want. You have the return of such fave strips as ‘Grey Area’ and ‘Sinister Dexter’, an all-new ‘Rogue Trooper’ story by James Robinson and Leonardo Manco, the return of 2000 AD’s only superhero, and much more! Let’s get right to it!
NOW ARRIVING — EVERYTHING!
Judge Dredd: Icon, Part 1
Credits: T.C. Eglington (script), Colin MacNeil (art), Chris Blythe (colors), Annie Parkhouse (letters)
Alice W. Castle: The interesting thing about Judge Dredd as a multimedia figure is that, despite never reading a Judge Dredd story in “2000AD” proper before, I feel like I know the character pretty well. Sure, that’s mostly from a mixture of culture osmosis as well as two wildly different films on the matter, but still, he’s the kind of character you can get a feel for without having to dive deep into his stories.
What’s surprising about “Icon,” however, is how well T.C Eglington and Colin MacNeil are able to weave a story about Dredd that not only builds on the continuity of the stories prior, but also feeds on that feeling of perception through cultural osmosis to bring in new readers. Undoubtedly, brand new readers like myself will bring a certain baggage to the book in how they view Dredd and Eglington and MacNeil feed on that. The premise of the story is that Dredd is being commemorated on behalf of the Judges with a statue to mark the remembrance of the Day of Chaos.
Regardless of whether a reader knows exactly was the Day of Chaos entails, they can connect to the way Mega-City One is divide on how they view Dredd. Is he a tough, but fair lawman bringing order to a city of chaos? Is a facsist, jackbooted thug treading on the already downtrodden to destroy their last semblance of hope in a wasteland? That divide is central to the story and certainly readers, old and new alike, will bring their own perspective to that.
On top of that is an art style that’s genuinely surprising for a Dredd story. Colin MacNeil’s art is much more rounded and clean in it’s linework, with heavy inks that emphasise a certain cartoonish exaggeration in the appearance of characters. The first panel’s awe-inspired close-up of Dredd’s characteristic jawline seems like it could run on the side of parody thanks to MacNeil’s more rounded, less harsh take on the character.
This is a story that really does live up to the ideal of being a jumping on point, for readers both old and new.
Rogue Trooper: A Soldier’s Life
Credits: James Robinson (script), Leonardo Manco (art), Simon Bowland (letters)
Ramon Augusto Piña: Next on the list we have a standalone story of Rogue Trooper from writer James Robinson -whom is working with 2000AD for the first time-, and Wacky Raceland artist Leonardo Manco. Just in time to promote the character´s return to the consoles in its remastered video game Rogue Trooper Redux. Although this is a One-off story, it happens to be a pretty good opportunity for new readers to get to know the character.
The story features a dialogue between a Nortern general and a Private, as the Rogue Trooper approaches to them, talking about the morality of men and war, the economics of being at war and the inevitability of death. I think it’s not a story of our main character per seNerdist that he is a fan of Rogue Trooper since he was a kid and it is noticeable in his way of taking vantage of the world around the character. He knows how to use the shadows and the light emitted from the screens to create a really fitting atmosphere to the world of Nu-Earth. Through his use of details you can almost see the blue in Rogue Trooper’s skin, and the explosions around him. You can tell there was chemistry between Robinson and Manco, and I hope that we are able to enjoy them working together again; maybe this is a great opportunity to bring back the Trooper on a regular basis.Continued below
Grey Area: Homeland Security, Part 1
Credits: Dan Abnett (script), Mark Harrison (art), Annie Parkhouse (letters)
Greg Lincoln: Dan Abnett does knows his way around cracking good military SF. Though I had not read much of “Grey Zone” prior to “Homeland Security” he, Mark Harrison and Annie Parkhouse created a band of characters that even in just a few pages have me worried about their very perilous future. Mark Harrison’s art in this story always visually attracted my attention, his character design work and his stuning color pallet as well as his use of light made this story stand out week after week. I would almost always stop t look at something in “Grey Zone” even though i seldom read the story and that was obviously my mistake. “Homeland Security” takes the Eco-Transfer Control Squad 86 away out of their normal environment as border patrol agents in the New Mexico grey area and drops them in a middle eastern desert war zone. Its a “rare off-site assignment” that begins with a “Are we there yet?” joke during an intercontinental flight and ends with a briefing that portends a possible sixth gulf-war and a possible global conflict.This brief introduction to the 86’th ETC squad really shone before the world began to look all grim and warlike. Mark Harrison shows characters elbowing each other as the squads resident alien Resting Bitch Face (Bitch for short) struggles with why “are we there yet is funny” without cultural context. The play there and later as she tried to play along had a real Star Trek like quality without being too campy.
Spending some time with this strip there is a lot of detail and depth to dig into in “Grey Zone.” Dan Abnett revealed a lot of big world details in the mission briefing delivered to the assembled forces. He revealed a world of complex politics and hidden dangers all beyond the scope of our heroes. Mark Harrison added a lot of texture and literal depth to the pages with the art as he used perspective, haze and blurring to communicate foreground and background elements as he has someone walk face first into a “UP is the only way sign.” A lot of time, effort thought and art has gone into this world and baring the aliens it scarily resembles the dangerous world outside our windows and outside our ability to change it.
Slaine – The Brutania Chronicles: Archon, Part 1
Credits: Pat Mills (script), Simon Davis (art), Ellie de Ville (letters)
Rowan Grover: Pat Mills wastes no time declaring all out war and thrusting you into the thick of it. This volume of “Slaine” follows quite closely from the previous installment, yet doesn’t bog down newer readers with heavy exposition. Think of this chapter more as a mid-battle refresher. Mills delivers on what he’s good at – plenty of action with Slaine battling the Archon Yaldabaoth’s Stone Army, all laden with big, bloodied weaponry and a suitable amount of pomp and circumstance. The double page spread at the beginning is about as heavy metal as fantasy comics get. Yaldabaoth’s triumphant chorus feels at once like a tonal declaration for the series – just as much as it looks like a peak Iron Maiden album cover.
Speaking of, Simon Davis holds nothing back on this debut chapter. Using the abstract, almost painted style that’s so closely associated with the character, Davis draws the heck out of Slaine and his companion lopping heads from the mismatched, shuffling bodies of the Stone Army. Yet what’s interesting is that he can pull off a scene with negative space just as well, as the following page uses this to highlight the bloodstained, determined figure of Slaine. His character work is just as versatile: Slaine’s companion moves from bloodcrazed, to confused, and intensely contemplative in this small issue, just as Slaine transcends the typical gritty barbarian fare as Davis shows him with the weight of his land bearing down on his shoulders.
This was a great reintroduction to the series, both for longtime and new fans of the character. Mills and Davis stage this like a concert opener, and I’m ready for the rest of the show.Continued below
Indigo Prime: A Dying Art, Part 1
Credits: John Smith (script), Lee Carter (art), Simon Bowland (letters)
Kent Falkenberg: It’s prime time for John Smith’s return to this multiversal world of Imagnineers, Sceneshifters and Seamsters. And though ‘A Dying Art, Part 1’ can be a difficult nut to crack for newcomers, it’s not completely impenetrable.
From a white-sands paradise, a snow leopard in a bio-mech suit licks an orange popsicle while reporting the location of a near-dead agent on the beach. Lee Carter plucks William S. Burroughs – yes, real-world Naked Lunch writing William S. Burroughs – from a deep black void and drops him in a lush garden just on the verge of becoming an overgrown tangle. Then, it’s a high-tech infirmary with three unresponsive patients and a facial-pierced neanderthal badass. Smith piles on the differing realities like he’s creating an existential 7-layer dip.
I’d be lying to say the uninitiated won’t feel some whiplash during “A Dying Art, Part 1.’ But I have to believe there’s some deliberate obtuseness at work. And it’s something that does help reinforce the surreality of Smith’s narrative. Plus, for all the confusion, there’s a very real sense of dread brought about by Carter’s positioning of apparitions and eldritch golems lurking behind or just over the shoulder of characters in the different threads.
While Carter’s figure work falls into the heavily photo-referenced camp, he excels at capturing a gaunt, resigned exhaustion on the face of Burroughs and Unthur, the neanderthal. That resignation, combined with Carter’s tendency to pull his panels in tightly to the weathered expressions on these characters, is enough hook to start caring for these people – even if it’s still a bit up in the air on exactly why we’re caring.
As with many 2000AD strips, it might take a couple installments – and some patience/digging – to see if the sun and stars will ever come into alignment.‘A Dying Art, Part 1’ has that What-the-hell-is-going-on? quality to make that investment worthwhile for now. And luckily, the wait won’t be too long to see how things pay out.
Sinister Dexter: Down In The Dumps, Part 1
Credits: Dan Abnett (script),Steve Yeowell (art), John Charles (color), Annie Parkhouse (letters)
Mike Mazzacane: Sometimes, you just can’t get rid of a bomb. Other times, you just can’t properly dump a body. After coming back from off world, Finny and Rex discover Downlode has changed in the interim. It isn’t just that all their dump sites are taken, it’s what is taking the space: retail parks, luxury homes, sport stadiums. Downloade has been gentrified! And worst all the Instant Korma are gone.
Artist Steve Yeowell and letter Ellie De Ville do a good job of cramming information into this 5-page strip and still keeping pages legible. Yeowell creates a sense of travel time by using high angled and distanced perspectives to minimize the gunsharks and emphasize the strange ever-changing city around them. The zoom in and out over 3 panel pattern creates a good episodic rhythm to Finny and Rex’s micro misadventures.
On a design note, Yeoweel and colorist John Charles do a nice job giving everything a Miami Vice sci-fi feel. From the sleek, if not form fitting, jacketed costuming to the car and overall moody feel created by the road trip across Downloade. Which is why the sudden appearance of the mortician is freighting and funny. Dan Abnett’s writing gives the character a level of deadpan, but his costume makes him an entirely new type of odd. With his purple bowtie, vest, and jacket. That is old even by current standards, here it’s ancient. That anachronistic quality gives their conversation a surprising amount of tension even as they pun everywhere.
I haven’t gotten to read much of Abnett’s 2000 AD stuff, but I never knew he could be this punny. It’s grand. The near consistent comedic asides fit the black humor of “2000 A.D.” but the discussion about the deadweight of a body would fit anywhere. Abnett even gets some comedic, and emotionally honest, work in.
‘Sinister Dexter’ is back, Downloade has changed once again, but maybe it isn’t as different as the think it is.Continued below
The Fall of Deadworld: Home
Credits: Kek-W (script), Dave Kendall (art), Annie Parkhouse (letters)
Rodney Ortiz: Gearing up for a new arc premiering in Prog 2061, Dave Kendall and Kek-W take us back to Deadworld for a little bit of death and insanity to satiate your thirst until the proper series debuts. Returning to the world they have so lovingly crafted, the duo looks to build upon their prior series “Dreams of Deadworld,” “Tainted” & “Cursed.” The 6-page primer reintroduces all the characters that readers have come to love, as we catch up with Psiren, Casey, Fairfax and Judge Death. As always, Kendall’s artwork brings to life your most disturbing nightmares, as his depictions remain as gruesome as ever.
Meant to simply tease the upcoming arc, the Prologue brings into focus two separate pairings. The first of which is Psiren and Casey, who have returned the Sector House 13 to get situated. Psiren warns Casey to be wary of those around him, leaving him in to create in a lab of his own, but reminding him that he only answers to Psiren.
The second pair we focus on is the real tease of the preview. Fairfax, thrown in a holding cube, is startled as the reanimated corpse of Collins enters the cell and straddles him. Disoriented, but quickly piecing things together, Fairfax glances at the door just as Judge Death greets him. With that final image we are done with the Prologue and if the visual of Judge Death leaves you wanting more, fear not, Deadworld will return.
Zenith: Permission to Land
Credits: Martin Howe (script), Steve Yeowell (art)
Greg Matiasevich: Journalist Martin Howe sits down with former 80’s pop star Robert McDowell for an interview on the eve of the release of his newest album Chimera. But McDowell’s 15 minutes of fame also included being the superhero Zenith and saving our world from the revived Nazi ubermensch Masterman and our universe from the Lloigor. Has time been kind to the man who made wearing a leather jacket while saving Life As We Know It cool?
When talking about “2000 AD”, it’s usually easier to just say the comic covers everything but superheroes, instead of listing all the genres and story types it does feature. But like every rule, there is at least one exception. And for “2000 AD”, that exception is Zenith. Created by Grant Morrison and Steve Yeowell in Prog 536 almost exactly 30 years ago, the popstar hero was as much a shallow, sarcastic pain-in-the-ass as he was savior of Life As We Know It. The duo put out four Zenith series from 1987 to 1992 and a one-off story in Prog 2001 before the Jacketed One disappeared from the newsstands until now.
Matt Smith steps in as Martin Howe to give us an update on what Zenith and the strip’s cast has been up to in the intervening years. ‘Permission to Land’ feels like the wrap-up interview for a Zenith Behind The Music comeback episode rather than a Whatever Happened To . . . hatchet job. The piece, complete with a new Yeowell illustration, hits the right kind of note for the character and respectful voice for what Yeowell and Morrison were trying to do with the strip, albeit in prose instead of comics form.
That’s gonna do it for us this week! “2000 AD” Prog 2050 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!”