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 4
Credits: Michael Carrol (script), PJ Holden (art), Quinton Winter (colours), Simon Bowland (letters)
Alice W. Castle: Things are heating up in the Soviet wastelands as Judge Dredd finally confronts the Judges of East Meg-Two who have finally, after four chapters, shown up to a distress call made a week ago in story. One of my favourite aspects of this story so far has been how Michael Carroll and PJ Holden have explored the way the East Meg-Two’s Justice Department’s roadblocking bureaucracy left the people in their charge vulnerable for over a week only for them to stroll into the middle of the situation and attempt to take charge.
It’s an interesting juxtaposition to the ruthless efficiency of Dredd and the Mega-City One Judges we’ve seen on the past couple of chapters and especially interesting in how Judge Zima is able to take charge and effectively neuter Dredd’s position in the conflict. That is, until both teams of Judges are overrun by the Slav reinforcements.
What’s impressive to me in this chapter is how Carroll and Holden are able to keep up the momentum while being decidedly in the middle of their second act. Most of the stories I’ve read in “2000AD” would have started to lag in their pacing at this point, but this is holding strong. Holden’s artwork, especially, keeps things engaging and violently action-packed by drawing on the warm, claustrophobic atmosphere of the mining facility and the almost Mexican standoff situation the Judges and the wastelanders have found themselves in. I really hope this story can stick the landing because so far, it’s been very impressive.
Slaine – The Brutannia Chronicles: Archon, Part Nine
Credits: Pat Mills(script), Simon Davis (art), Ellie De Ville (letters)
Rowan Grover: Pat Mills certainly knows how to throw me for a spin. After the dramatic reveal of Slaine’s mother Macha being raped by an El Lord, we promptly find out that it never happened, that instead she promptly beat him up after he tried to force himself upon her, with the help of her secret lover Duban. This pretty much corrects the main problem I had with last week’s installment, and continues to make Macha into a complex and badass character. The flow of this issue is a little off as it’s interrupted by Slaine and Sinead mid-story, but it goes to show how Slaine himself is arrogant and presumptuous, but tortured by his past. Mills makes sure all his characters are intricately constructed, and this is well-represented in this prog.
Davis continues his streak of good artwork from last week, giving us a slew of tense action scenes. Most of it is set in the cave where Macha found the El Lord, but uses this setting to give a sense of claustrophobia when the El Lord is bearing down on her. Davis gives us just enough setting to remind us where we are, but doesn’t dwell on it, instead devoting more energy to character work. And he does well in the subtlety of body language here. If you simply read the dialogue in the first half of the prog, you’ll be worried for Macha, and what the El Lord will do to her, yet if you pay close attention to the way Davis renders her cool composure, her undaunted stance, you’ll see that it was always a one sided battle, and that Davis drew her with complete confidence. There’s another scene in the middle of the book I love, with Sinead and Slaine sitting beside each other, and the way that Davis renders our protagonist makes him look a little overweight, a little worn, and crazy. Not the perfect, trim Conan stereotype, but an authentic, boisterous barbarian.
This continues to be the most interesting and well-executed arc of the current “Slaine” story. There’s great character work, subtle character art, and overall flipping of dated tropes on their head. Mills and Davis work hard to propel “Slaine” into a modern era of storytelling.Continued below
Indigo Prime: A Dying Art, Part 9
Credits: Kek-W (script), Lee Carter (art), Simon Bowland (letters)
Kent Falkenberg: Unthar Dak, William Burroughs, and Agents Jinks materialize through the Pyschosphere back to Indigo Prime HQ, only to find that all kinds of metaphysical shit has been flung into the interdimensional fan. Or, as one of the newly awoken Imagineers puts it, “Listen… This station is about to collapse into a zero-point singularity where many angled monstrosities will use our vacuum-ruptured remains as either snacks or sex toys.”
As usual, Kek-W cuts loose with the pseudo-scientific vernacular in a way that perfectly straddles the line between business-as-usual, shop-talk jargon and utter nonsense. But the dire prophetics in ‘A Dying Art, Part 9’ would probably ring false if Lee Carter wasn’t so adept at keeping pace with all the cartwheels. Carter’s design aesthetic for these monstrosities gets quite the workout as he doles out a tangled thicket of exofloral consciousness sprawled out across the medical ward with sinewed muscularity. A trio of thermodynamic scavengers – the Cold Phaorohs – descend on Clive Vista. Their rigid, jackal-headed looks bear down with steely menace. All the while, psychedelic Lovecraftian horrors are rising up from the Underverse.
The threats are real – well, real-ish. And coming in from all angles. Carter cleverly drafts the first page of this strip with a number of unevenly shaped panels. Combined with the fact the agents we’ve been most closely following have returned to the roost – and that Danny Redman has uncovered to the truth about Major Arcana’s subterfuge – this gives the impression that all the pieces of the puzzle are finally coming back together. Similar panel composition is used throughout ‘A Dying Art, Part 9’ as the Kek-W’s script zigs and zags from the agents to Vista to the Imagineers and to Arcana.
There’s snatches of dialog that sound clunkier than usual, but that might be the product of bouncing between the story threads so much. Overall, though, Kek-W and Lee Carter are mostly concerned with showing the walls closing in on these characters. And ‘A Dying Art, Part 9’ does so at a good clip and with some visual splash
“Tharg’s 3Rillers Presents: The House Of Guilded Park”
Credits: Eddie Robson(script), Steven Austin(art), Gary Caldwell(colors), Annie Parkhouse(letters)
Greg Lincoln I could compare this “Tharg’s 3Rillers Presents” to Inception or Mission Impossible, as Eddie Robson has set up a pretty good caper story so far. Having only three chapters, Robson explains the basics of the stratified society of this fantasy world and it’s hidden households, then hits us with the caper in progress, as the dishonored Sir Aranchet of Osterberg enters the ultra-hexed House of Gilded Park. Little to no narrative space is available or used to explain the fantasy tropes at work in this world, and it works because the hows are not really important in the story. We are really more concerned with the group of ne’er-do-wells that Tris has brought together, their motivations and what the Gilded House is hiding. Robson dangles just enough mystery to make me want to know more.
Steven Austen and Gary Cauldwel’s pages remind a bit or me in a aspirational way of the artwork of Jerry Ordway and Dave Gibbons, with hints of Bryan Talbot’s “The Adventures Of Luther Arkwright.” Their approach to showing this fantastic and brightly colorful world is grounded in the realism of the characters designs, their expressive faces and eyes. The fashion choices and the color pallets they use show the vast differences in class of this world and reveal some things about the characters beyond the little the story itself tells us. Care and thought have gone into look of this short piece of fiction that may after its three parts end up being just a one-off.
Absalom: Terminal Diagnosis – Book One Part Six
Credits: Gordon Rennie (script) Tiernen Trevallion (art) Ellie De Ville (letters)
Michael Mazzacane: This strip is an exercise in wanton cruelty and abuse of power, so it’s right at home in the pages of “2000 A.D..” I must confess, I’m unsure if this strip zig zags through time as with previous strips. There is nothing that indicates a shift in time, other than Trevallion drawing old Harry Absalom as a young-old Harry Absalom (he just isn’t as wrinkly as before). He is the Maggie Smith of comics, always looking more senior than you’d expect.Continued below
The center of the strip is Charlie aka the Guv’nor, which led me to than reading all his lines as if he were an orc from WarHammer 40k. He helped train Harry and while Harry is a hard-boiled old-school copper like the synopsis says, Guv’nor lacks any of the sort of moral qualities the type of character Harry is associated with. Guv’nor is just cruel because he can be, beating demon children with Geoffrey, the humorlessly named cricket bat.
The last several strips have had interesting artistic elements too them. This isn’t as obviously interesting, it’s a blunt portrayal of abusing power. There’s nothing fancy about how the action is portrayed it’s all action-reaction. But if it wasn’t so blunt it’d look too cool.