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 3
Credits: Michael Carrol (script), PJ Holden (art), Quinton Winter (colours), Simon Bowland (letters)
Alice W. Castle: There are moments, few and far between, that are truly iconic Dredd moments. Maybe the most well known one is the “Gaze into the fist of Dredd” heard round the world that now adorns t-shirts, patches and even skin. Many of these moments, especially the fist-based screw you to Judge Fear, are moments built on subverting expectations. They’re moments that elevate Dredd beyond the trappings and tropes of the world around him and, when they work, showcase why Dredd has become such a iconic character.
There’s a moment in this chapter of ‘Black Snow’ that sold me on the story Carrol and Holden are telling. As much as I could appreciate the build-up of the nomads covering their theft of a mining facility’s skimmed-off-the-top treasure trove as a quest for vengeance (in an almost reverse-Die Hard move) and the juxtaposition between the brutal efficiency of the Mega City One Judges and the callous bureaucracy of the Judges of East-Meg Two, it wasn’t until Dredd answered the pleas of the nomad’s leader to just talk it out with a bullet to the face that it all coalesced.
Carrol’s script builds to this moment where the charismatic Maksim, seeing his forces under siege by Mega City One Judges that they weren’t ready for, seeks to parlay with Dredd, appealing to his better nature in order to make him see that all they want is their rightful vengeance against those who wronged them. And he’s answered with a hi-ex round to to the face that he barely manages to dodge.
If nothing else, this story built to that great, classic-feeling moment and it makes me real interested to see how Carrol and Holden will round this story out.
Slaine – The Brutannia Chronicles: Archon, Part Eight
Credits: Pat Mills(script), Simon Davis (art), Ellie De Ville (letters)
Rowan Grover: The twists happen aplenty here in Chapter Eight of “Slaine.” In what could’ve easily been a dragged out flashback story, Mills trims the fat and gets right to the point, focalising the narrative on Slaine’s mother meeting his father for the first time. It’s gruesome, honestly unexpected and absorbing in the best possible ways. I like how Mills subverts things, having Slaine’s mother as the dominant side of her relationship with Roth, and even frivolously cheating on him. It’s a shame that Mills had to rely on her eventually being taken advantage of to advance the plot (kind of a shame that female characters are still treated this way) but it makes sense within the lore of the world to some extent.
Davis’s art seems to be something of a rollercoaster on this series, but luckily this chapter is full of glyphic, beautiful paints. We get three distinct settings – the bloodied, broken chariot in an open battlefield, a grassy cave-top at moonlit midnight and the arcane, ancient depths of a secret cavern – and all of which sing with character. Davis goes really out of his way to make this chapter feel like an adventure, and it works excellently. We even get a facial expression deconstruction like last chapter, only this time it happens with a setting in the background and with distinct full body profiles to further convey subtleties. To top it off, Davis sticks the landing with the ominous El Lord’s mugshot looming over the last page.
Mills appears to be unpacking Slaine’s origin in this chapter, and it’s a whole lot of fun. Toss in some great sequential Simon Davis art, and it goes to show this team know how to make a great barbarian story. Hopefully the momentum continues through more chapters this time.
Indigo Prime: A Dying Art, Part 8
Credits: Kek-W (script), Lee Carter (art), Simon Bowland (letters)
Kent Falkenberg: Having to follow the emotional high and visceral impact of last week’s strip puts ‘A Dying Art, Part 8’ into a tricky context. Anthology pieces like this will always have their peaks and valleys. And this week’s valley is necessary to cap off the Indigo Prime agents sojourn through the Psychosphere into the Under-Id.
It would be more precise to call this one a necessary comedown rather than a let down. By closing out the thread involving the Nihilist, at least for now, Kek-W and Lee Carter can shift their focus to the espionage and dirty dealings that are plaguing the agency at the managerial level. It’s apt that some of these agents are called Sceneshifters, because it feels like that’s exactly what is going on here. Carter deftly handles a script that jauntily skips back through the varied multi-dimensional settings he’s already envisioned.
There’s a distinct shift about halfway though ‘A Dying Art, Part 8.’ where The Baron, Victor Schroeder, Major Arcana, and Clive Vista take a step towards prominence in the overall narrative. While preceding installments gave us little nuggets of their whys and wherefores, Kek-W finally announces each of their intents explicitly. And the timing of this change feels naturally tied to the shoring up of loose ends with Burroughs, Unthar, and Danny Redman.
As Schroeder and the Baron look poised to take over as the major antagonists, it becomes clear that Kek-W’s plotting of their endgame revolves somehow around the monstrous Christhulhu. Carter is clever enough to relegate its slimy writhing tendrils to the backgrounds of his paneling. These slightly obscured views of the metaphysical leviathan help maintain an air of mystery around it.
‘A Dying Art, Part 8’ is a clear turning point in Kek-W and Lee Carter’s strip. And sometimes, making a tight corner and still staying in control means losing out on some of the steam that was building up.
Sinister Dexter: The Sights
Credits: Dan Abnett(script), Steve Yeowell(art), John Charles(Colors), Annie Parkhouse(letters)
Greg Lincoln: This one-shot Sinister Dexter strip is a truly clever play on quickie travel guide books. The story flashes back and forth between guide like covering of an aspect of the sprawling Downlode and the ways that Ramone and Finnigan exploit that site, that landmark, or make use of the space for violence, intimidation and mayhem. The play between the travel suggestions and the gun-sharks running commentary going about their business is clever in its execution both writing and art wise.
Steve Yeowell and John Charles are a good visual comedy storytelling team. Some of their panels go beyond their usual minimalistic primary color heavy style heading into a bit of exaggerated realism but for e most part is old fashioned comics. The most effective series of panels of their attention given to Finnigan and Ramone played with their clothing and weapons against different locals of violence. As I said with the previous run titled ‘Aztec Cameraderie’ Dan Abnett’s Story manages to be funny in an intellectual way. It may not make you laugh out loud but it’s clever in just the right way to make you grin a couple times.
Absalom: Terminal Diagnosis – Book One Part Five
Credits: Gordon Rennie (script) Tiernen Trevallion (art) Ellie De Ville (letters)
Michael Mazzacane: Gordon Rennie and Tiernen Trevallion delver another time bending strip, as the history of Mr. Crich is explored in these 5 pages. While in the previous strip Trevallion featured objects breaking space to unify everything, the opening panel of ‘Terminal Diagnosis’ part five is a more traditional fade to memory conceit you’d find in film. As Crich battles The Carnifex in the left of the panel, on Ellie De Ville’s dialog bubbles, it slowly fades back to the 19th century and a discovery of the young master. While not as inherently out there or cool, there is an ease of use to how that panel explains the crosscut nature of the strip compared to the previous one.
The history of Crich is effectively a brief montage that does the smart thing of not showing anything. This is supposed to be a laborious yet mundane task of cleaning up after daemons, so why show it? That would require pay offs the strip doesn’t have the space to do. That spectacle would also distract from the very British disposition of Crich through the years as he complains-laments about “cleaning up behind one’s social betters.”
While Trevallion is not lacking for chances to depict ghosts and goblins, the vision of young Crich provides a different perspective. A childish one, the aristocratic demons are all flattened and cartooned not unlike the designs you would find in a children’s book like Where the Wild Things Are, not Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark. It creates something to consider with the grim and gritty present.