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 – Black Snow, Part 2
Credits: Michael Carrol (script), PJ Holden (art), Quinton Winter (colours), Simon Bowland (letters)
Alice W. Castle: The trouble with serialised storytelling, stories broken up into chapters and consumed individually, is the balancing act of both continuing the story you set up last week while also allowing for anyone to jump into the story at any point. Every issue is, after all, someone’s first, as they say. The trouble stems from a feeling of “second verse, same as the first” when it comes to these kinds of stories.
While part 2 of ‘Black Snow’ certainly progresses the story by revealing more of the raiders’s motivation in attacking the Soviet mining facility and bringing in the Judges as promised at the end of the last issue, it comes at the expense of having to retread some of the same material as last week. Specifically, the look back at East Meg-Two as Carrol and Holden tell pretty much the exact same joke about overbearingly organised bureaucracy in order to explain why Mega City One Judges are fighting back against the raiders for people who missed it last week.
That doesn’t make this a bad chapter, by any means, there’s just a frustration that comes with having to retread old ground before getting the new, good stuff and even then, it’s cut off by the limited space, promising, once again, a confrontation between the Judges and the Raiders if only you’d come back next week.
Slaine – The Brutannia Chronicles: Archon, Part Seven
Credits: Pat Mills(script), Simon Davis (art), Ellie De Ville (letters)
Rowan Grover: Pat Mills digs into Slaine’s heritage with this prog. There’s a heap more dialogue than usual, as Mills has Sinead possess Slaine’s dead mother Macha to find out about who the father is, and it does make it a little tougher to read. The scenes with Sinead are interestingly written, as we get more of her than usual, and get to know her fiery temper next to Slaine’s cool composure. We get into her motivations through Slaine’s descriptions of her, and it’s an interesting albeit dialogue-heavy way to do so. The best parts of this dialogue are the Macha flashback scenes – we get a little bit of Celtic language playing in, and Macha being a badass female protagonist and chopping off Tory Devil heads. It brings the pacing back to pace you towards the end of the prog nicely and set up a solid new origin arc.
I’m generally all about Simon Davis’ art, but here it doesn’t get much time to show off. What’s most apparent is how little he gets to do during the exposition heavy scenes. There are full pages where all that we get is Sinead’s mugshot reacting to Slaine’s discussion. It’s an interesting way to gauge Sinead’s character, but feels pretty empty and hard to place without the setting behind it. What we do get of the tomb they’re in is macabre and exciting, so it’s disappointing we don’t get more of it. The Tory Island scenes are a lot of fun, however. There’s some great perspective work with Davis rendering a swarm of devils running forward to attack, and visceral action as Macha rides through them with her spiked chariot. It’s the best parts of “Slaine” distilled into a two-page sequence, and features his combat-hardened mother instead.
Part seven of this ‘Archon’ story feels like a weak link when you look at it artistically, but does set up some interesting plot elements. Flashbacks are hard to nail, but Mills does so without being too heavy-handed, making sure it’s the most fun section of this prog. Keep an eye out for how this story develops.
Indigo Prime: A Dying Art, Part 7
Credits: Kek-W (script), Lee Carter (art), Simon Bowland (letters)
Kent Falkenberg: After being sequestered in a lonely grey corner, literally, metaphorically, and metaphysically, for all of last week’s entry, William S. Burroughs emerges as something of this dreamscape’s manifestation of John McClane. And while ‘A Dying Art, Part 7’ touches base briefly with some of its other working parts, it’s really about Burroughs becoming the hero of the piece.
Kek-W does a wonderful job of tapping into the inner demons – psychological ones from past trauma, just to be clear; in a story like this that distinction needs to be made – that have plagued Burroughs throughout this narrative. It’s done in such a way that in order to extricate himself from the greyspace the Nihilist trapped him in, Burroughs must confront the reality of what happened to his deceased wife, his role in it, and how that affected his entire life going forward. In this way, there’s a sublime confluence of a character growth and plotting, It’s made all the more poignant given the fact the escape hinges on using an pan-dimensional analog to the cut-up literary technique for which Burroughs is so readily known.
Lee Carter gets a little more rope when it comes to scene-setting in ‘A Dying Art, Part 7.’ As Burroughs tears holes through reality on his way from the Grey Room back to the Under-Id, he stops by for a stroll through a dusty bazaar populated by denizens whose reptilian and insectoid carapaces are enough to invoke the spirit of Naked Lunch. It’s lively hustle and bustle stands in stark contrast to the red, desolate wastelands from which the Nihilist is plotting an end game.
Continuing his trend of using hard worn lines to display wearied dispositions, Carter manages to keep Burroughs looking emotionally exhausted, even when he’s acting outwardly at his most heroic. There’s a moment early on, before he’s found his resolve, where Burrough sits in the Grey Room with the tip of a revolver held lackadaisically at his temple. Carter includes a single tear welling in the corner of an eye, without it ever feeling overly sentimental or cliched. And that sense of resigned melancholy never seems to leave the slight hunch in his shoulders as we follow him through the rest of the sequence.
Stories that burrow as deeply as “Indigo Prime” does into ridiculous metaphysics, toxic alterna-realities, and debilitating cases of accelerated superneuroherpes are often at risk for being too heady for any emotional punches to really land. Kek-W and Lee Carter do an amazing job in ‘A Dying Art, Part 7’ not only to make sure we feel the emotional impact of Burroughs’ return, but to make sure that impact resonates equally as fervent on the story itself.
Sinister Dexter: Aztec Cameraderie Part 4
Credits: Dan Abnett(script), Steve Yeowell(art), John Charles(Colors), Annie Parkhouse(letters)
Greg Lincoln: Our storytellers Abnett, Yeowell, Charles and Parkhouse delivered a surprise turn ending to ‘Aztec Cameraderie’ as Ramone Dexter and Finnigan Sinister execute the devious plan of the woman at the last Instant Karma franchise. Her plan utilized the overwhelming force and the reputation of the massive fast food chain Chicken Itza against them. In the end she proved that the little guy can win even in losing big and win without massive bloodshed. Dan Abnett, Steve Yeowell and John Charles did get to give us some Michael Bey level explosive bombast in the service of the plot, and the spoken wishes of the Chicken Itza CEO, as the plan involved leveling the Instant Korma eatery. The clever bit was letting the blame and public opinion fall where it may. The outcome was funny not in a laugh out load kind of way but in a justice is served against the big evil corporation kind of way.
Steve Yeowell and John Charles pages are solidly good comics pages that deliver really effectively on the ironies in this comedic tale. After the explosive solution the the problem of escalating violence that smartly had no sound effect the funniest moment came from final gift the Instant Korma people had for the gun-sharks. The family recipe for Lamb Dansak that prompted Finnigan’s imagined image of his and Ramone’s attempts at cooking Indian food was of worth a good smile or a laugh. Downlode is now the worse food wise for our gun-sharks as they saw then end of their favorite chain but this three parter was entertaining and lead to some good fast foodie puns.Continued below
Absalom: Terminal Diagnosis – Book One Part Four
Credits: Gordon Rennie (script) Tiernen Trevallion (art) Ellie De Ville (letters)
Michael Mazzacane: The last strip ended on a banger of a cliffhanger: a giant eldritch horror known as the Carnifex was barreling down on our young detectives. Which means, of course, this strip begins in a completely different dramatic place by paying off what happened to Absalom. Still you can’t hold back cosmic horror for long, it basically invades the final third of the page. This contrast in subject matter sees Tiernen Trevallion making some of the best pages in this new run so far.
While there is something inherently funny about seeing hard scrabble Harry Absalom at a tea party, that dissonance isn’t the focus of the strip. Instead Trevallion pays off the page as a unit that can cut across space and show things happening all at once. A grenade is thrown in one panel flies over into Absalom’s section, uniting everything across time if not space. Comics that’ve done this sort of cross cutting dynamic generally build their pages and constrain them with patterns and uniformity. Here there’s a more fluid sense to the page as they vary in size and shape. Despite the free form nature, Trevallion composes mostly symmetrical pages – at least narratively – when dealing with these two separate scenes. Often using the more action oriented sequence as bookends for the more dialog driven middle portion with Absalom.
As limited as the fight with The Carnifex is, Trevallion does a good job of using that limited space to show the chase/fight always getting just a little bit worse. In contrast to Abaslom, this is largely dialog free, everything is visual and despite the heavy action is clearly narrated. Sometimes you just can’t get rid of a giant eldritch horror meant upon reclaiming the property of Hell.