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 2000AD
Judge Dredd: Icon, Part 3
Credits: T.C. Eglington (script), Colin MacNeil (art), Chris Blythe (colors), Annie Parkhouse (letters)
Alice W. Castle: Make Mega City-One Great Again. Last week, I talked about how T.C. Eglington and Colin MacNeil has been using this ‘Icon’ story in “2000AD” to hold up a dark mirror to our present and that’s only become clearer as the story has progressed. After the strip’s antagonists have defaced what was going to be a statue of Joe Dredd with the image of the last President, Robert L. Booth. Booth has been a presidential stand-in for everyone from Ronald Reagan to George W. Bush and now represents the fear-mongering figure looming over America in Trump.
If this story is about icons, it’s about how icons are used to twist the public. To assert an influence over people who are scared for their security and their stability and are looking for a scapegoat to pin it on. Instead of reasonably pointing the finger at the wealthy and powerful figures that control their lives, they point the finger at the other. At the immigrant or the sexual deviant or the thug who they paint as encroaching on their freedom. This is a story about how those people are manipulated into a violence against one another while those in power can work towards what they really want.
As I mentioned last week, this is a rough story to stomach in the current political climate, but it’s a necessary one. “2000AD” is primarily British with a sensibility removed from Americana and so in looking to the current state of the world, can explore what’s happening with that sense of distance. And with that distance comes the clarity that we’re tearing a each other’s throats over icons, over symbols that mean nothing to us. This story continues to be a part of why Judge Dredd and Mega City One are essential reading right now.
Grey Area: Homeland Security, Part 3
Credits: Dan Abnett (script), Mark Harrison (art), Annie Parkhouse (letters)
Greg Lincoln: Despite a bit of plot rehash about the tech blindness the ETC squads and their allies experienced in the battlefield, Dan Abnett moves the story forward apace. The extra terrestrial ETC troops Resting Bitch Face and Compelling Male Musk Oder Harmonious Free tech adapt to the dire situation and allow a handful of The ETC troopers, the women and the aliens, to save ETC squads bacon. The Harmonious Free adaptive tech giving our heroes the edge I’m fine with, it didn’t come off as a cheap out to me. The two Harmonious Free officers are an anomaly that the Affiliated Gulf States and their Chinese allies would have had no exposure or deep knowledge of in the same way the UP and ETC forces didn’t expect the electronic counter-measures the AGS were using. Abnett moved the story on after the firefight and get our Everyman heroes to their objective for the next act in this story. The idea that the eight remaining ETC troopers, even with their slight surprise advantage, might allow them to succeed stretches the suspension of disbelief but Abnett, Harrison, and Parkhouse sell it pretty well.
Mark Harrison’s art in this chapter appears a bit looser at first glance then the previous two parts but actually his attention to detail is pretty spot on. Looking at Bitch, Male, Feo, and Amelia in this chapter, and before it’s pretty obvious, their eyewear is markedly different then everyone else’s and something that probably noticed at least unconsciously. Railsback’s hat and face are still red from the blood spatter of her squad member reinforcing her raw distress over her loss. It’s been a week for us readers but mere moments for her and it’s works to bring me back to that moment. Harrison does a great job of communicating both with his color choices and his facial expressions on the page in the UP/ETC command center to create a real sense of loss and powerlessness. Dan Abnett and Mark Harrison have set us up now for act three in this story as the ETC squads 86 and 87 set up to finish their mission at the mini God-Egg.Continued below
Slaine – The Brutania Chronicles: Archon, Part 3
Credits: Pat Mills (script), Simon Davis (art), Ellie de Ville (letters)
Rowan Grover: Mills is back on the horse, baby. This chapter is super rhythmic in the way it uses action, and doesn’t hold back on every visceral element. The fight between Gododin feels like a good deterrent to the main event that is Yaldabaoth, yet the two have history that feels respected with how well put together the fight scene is. The third page in particular is so well paced, every panel feels like punch to the gut. It’s just as important to note how well constructed this is as a chapter of a whole entity. The chaos of Gododin introduced last chapter is fleshed out and wrapped up by the end of the chapter, yet another complication is introduced to lead readers back for next issue in a way that doesn’t feel forced.
Simon Davis’s angular, abstract art fits so well with the rhythmic scripting so much more than last issue. Davis uses sparse settings to make the fight scenes feel intense and huge. Both Gododin and Slaine swing their weapons around in seemingly limitless space – a great way to use the anything goes palette that is comic books. On top of that, the sequential action is perfect – on a panel to panel level, Slaine feels so well choreographed that I can follow the way he swings around his axe with minimal effort. I should also point out how terrifying Gododin looks. Think Xenomorph, with Predator dreadlocks, and a bloody huge cleaver of a sword.
“Slaine” is such a brutal experience, but doesn’t forget to feel fun for the reader. Pat Mills, Simon Davis, and Elle De Ville understand that this is what comics are about, and relish in the experience of crafting a well-paced, rhythmic chapter.
Indigo Prime: A Dying Art, Part 3
Credits: John Smith (script), Lee Carter (art), Simon Bowland (letters)
Kent Falkenberg: The Psychosphere from last week is basically just a rabbit hole for our intrepid Indigo Prime agents to fall through on their way to the Haunted House of Heads. Kek-W takes the reins from John Smith for ‘A Dying Art, Part 3’, but the song remains largely the same.
The ethereal realms that William Burroughs and his compatriots sojourn though keep twisting with a curiouser-and-curiouser bent. Lee Carter continues to ground the esoterics with a fine-lined clarity to his figure-work. Again, there’s a strong focus on the details weathered into the stressed expressions on his character’s faces. But when he pulls back his lens, he cleverly frames the surroundings, whether it’s the Haunted House or the Psychosphere itself, at pitched angles that match the off-kilter theatrics of the story. It also seems to imply that Burroughs, Unthar, and the rest aren’t ever really able to gather solid footing themselves.
Kek-W pulls the curtain back a little more on what occurred to render all the Imagineers into psychic-shock. As well, he seasons the home-office thread with a sprinkle of nefarious corporate-political intrigue. It’s a nice touch that ratchets the tensions another turn in this psychedelic slow-burn. No matter what’s in store for our ghost riders of the astral plane, everything might not be well back at the ranch.
Unfortunately, there’s still not much in the way of character development. I know it’s a tough task in 6 pages, but “A Dying Art, Part 3’ holds course with the trend of giving us some insight into Burroughs and no one else. Granted, we find out that Jinks is equally as uncomfortable with the Psychosphere as Burroughs is (minus that pesky heroin habit). Though there’s not much else revealed about the rest of the team.
Aside from that, Kek-W and Lee Carter deliver a fairly taut installment. It’s idea focused. The pseudo-science and inter-dimensionality bear the weight of these pages, rather than character beats or action. But ‘A Dying Art, Part 3’ proves that a head-trip can be every bit as suspenseful as a physical one.
Sinister Dexter: The Devil & All His Whacks
Credits: Dan Abnett (script), Jake Lynch (art), John Charles (color), Annie Parkhouse (letters)
Mike Mazzacane: Steve Yeowell brings a different kind of dynamism to this strip of ‘Sinister Dexter.’ Previous strips in this run relied upon heavy paneling and dynamic angles for the figures, as the two best gun sharks in Downlode did their thing. The opening page of ‘The Devil & All His Whacks’ features a fair amount of paneling but the overall page structure is flat. Instead, Yeowell juxtaposes differing perspectives in paneling to create a sudden burst of action.
For once things seem to be going fine for Fin and Rex as the pair go on a private contract. Until, all of a sudden, a scared man with a pair of guns bursts on the scene shooting wildly. Yeowell pretty much smashes these two panels together. One of Fin and Rex diving out of the way and the other of that scared man firing randomly. This juxtaposition creates multiple levels of tension, as the ordering appears slightly off. The readers eye is first drawn to the “brakka” onomatopoeia panel that shows Fin and Rex diving out of away, the effect. It’s in the next panel that we see the cause in the form of the man and his guns. Each panel is from completely different perspectives, the one with the man is relatively straight on while Fin and Rex are given a more side eyed glance as they leap for cover. The perspectives from these panels don’t fit together, they don’t form a spread but more overlap one another. That incongruity reads like an accurate representation of the sudden danger bursting onto the page. A couple of action heavy panels later and the problem is taken care of, and than things get weird when a fan shows up. Nothing ever seems to be straightforward for Fin and Rex.
That’s gonna do it for us this week! “2000 AD” Prog 2051 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!”