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 5
Credits: Michael Carroll (script), PJ Holden (art), Quinton Winter (colors), Annie Parkhouse (letters)
Alice W. Castle: Something I’m generally pretty wary of is stories that trying and paint Dredd, or characters like him, as cool. It’s a wall I frequently run up to as someone who enjoys Punisher stories. These characters are broken men, black holes of empathy, and exist to serve as the idols of a near destroyed society. To me, there’s no real room for cool there. That being said, Dredd surfing down a smelting chute on the body of a dog while handcuffed is the kind of moment that supersedes that wariness.
This is, largely, another middle chapter where not a whole lot is down to actually push the story forward so much as pushing the pieces are the board. Dredd goes from being handcuffed and at the mercy of the raiders to a tenuous truce with the East-Meg Two Judges. The raiders start threatening the hostages and everyone waits for the next move.
It’s the kind of chapter where the story comes second to the actual craft of the script because I found myself really beginning to appreciate the artwork on a new level. Especially Quinton Winter’s colour palette. The harsh clash of oranges and greens brings a kind of off-kilter contrast to the scene. It has a similar effect to the orange/teal contrast, but by pushing the orange closer to the red spectrum and by using a dark green as contrast, Winter brings a weird, kind of horrific effect to the scene.
Slaine – The Brutannia Chronicles: Archon, Part Nine
Credits: Pat Mills(script), Simon Davis (art), Ellie De Ville (letters)
Rowan Grover: This issue almost feels like the epilogue or denouement of the “Slaine” origin arc in some ways. The first half is paced a little slow, with Mills taking a moment for protagonists Slaine and Sinead to be impressed by the great figureheads in their past. It’s triumphant in a sense, but feels weightless as the scene lacks action or real stakes for the present characters. However, Mills ramps the tension back up by bringing both Yaldabaoth and Gododin back into the fray. There’s some interesting real world tie-ins and religious allegories going on here that makes me excited to see what hands Mills still has to play in this series.
Davis has a great shot at some beautifully varied architectural splash pages. The art suffers a little from the same pacing and stakes issues as the writing does, with Slaine and Sinead only really interacting with each other. However, Davis does excel at drawing compelling human emotions during these scenes which do help drive the emotional factor of the story into the reader. It only gets more interesting from here in, however – we see the dramatic returns of Yaldabaoth’s stone army and Gododin slipping through a stone wall, almost giving a claustrophobic stress to the reader by having our protagonists so thoroughly outclassed. However, it’s the splash sections with Slaine experiencing visions from Yaldabaoth, that we get almost Lovecraftian scenes of Slaine looking on in fear at an industrial future.
“Slaine” suffers from a little bit of odd pacing in this issue, but it’s still retaining the consistency in quality this arc has brought to the table. Mills keeps things intriguing while giving Davis ample space to spread his wings. It’s a prog filled with beautiful lore to sink your teeth into.
Sinister Dexter: Billi No Mates
Credits: Dan Abnett (script), Paul Marshall (art), Dylan Teague (colors)Simon Bowland (letters)
Kent Falkenberg: Dan Abnett drops by for a quick dose of Downlode’s down-low, dirty, no-good gun sharks. And when I say quick, I mean blink-and-you’ll-miss-’em quick. Abnett and Paul Marshall’s strip centers on the titular Billi Octavio (#billinomates, if you’re trying to get in touch), virtracker and sister to a murdered woman. And it’s this murder that’s pushed Misters Sinister and Dexter somehow within her orbit.Continued below
But we’re not getting the full story here. We’re not even getting the half of it. This strip closes with a banner advertising “Sinister Dexter”’s return in 2018. So what we do get is a pretty concise introduction to Billi and a teaser for a new arc in which she’ll feature prominently.
As such, ‘Billi No Mates’ works efficiently. Along with the murder and mystery that have aroused Billi’s suspicions, Abnett has cut out a exemplary cross section of her life. So much so, that in a brief six pages we get a pretty thorough understanding of what makes her tick, what’s important in her life, and how dangerous she could be if crossed. Abnett takes time to forge a moral center within her that’s largely absent from Ramone Sinister and Finnigan Dexter. When the story kicks back up in the new year, it will be definitely pay off to see her as something like their virtuous foil.
Artwise, the strip spends much of its time with close-ups on Billi’s face. For those of us familiar with the strip, we know Downlode, we know the most (in)famous denizens, but we don’t know her. And it’s a clever move to focus in on her eyes and the sternness of her resolve, so that by the end of the strip we’re well enough acquainted with her to run right alongside.
‘Billi No Mates’ feels like a total palate teaser. There’s a lot more story to be told. But as an introduction to Billi and her part to play, well, it strikes with the accuracy and efficacy of a gun-shark.
“Tharg’s 3Rillers Presents: The House Of Gilded Park” Part 2
Credits: Eddie Robson(script), Steven Austin(art), Gary Caldwell(Colors), Annie Parkhouse(letters)
Greg Lincoln: In Part two this creative team really turned things up to 11. Eddie Robson is now playing a game of “who’s playing who, what do they really want and why” with this group of ner-do-wells. After giving a couple quickie exposition sentences for those just joining us, he hits us the next bit of the ‘con’, brings in two more members of Tris’s crew and throws us all kinds of reveals, reversals and curves. Light the wick, strike up the Mission Impossible theme song, fantasy version, and off we go. This act reveals another couple members os Tris’s crew, apparently an actual ‘couple’, that fill the rolls of the safe-cracker and the muscle on this caper. The more little elements Robson adds the more that I kind of wish this was more then a three-parter.
The ruse that opens the door for this entire caper, Sir Aranchet’s marriage promise to the daughter of the Gilded House, as I thought reveals some twisted surprises. She’s experiencing a very alarming visceral long term body horror I fear may only get more grind-house horrible by the end. Her predicament does at least provide a compelling reason for the families withdrawal from society.
The art by Austen and Caldwell is a really fine match to the grind house tone set by Robson in ‘The House of Guilded Park’. The scenery has just the right juxtaposition of elements to give the home that gilt yet tawdry atmosphere. Though it is a huge house it’s rather empty, the table may be white-tablecloth but it’s off white and so sparsely laid. Their choices as to how the characters dress continues to show the care with which they designed the look of this story to evoke a sense of there being something classist and something very off at the same time.
Absalom: Terminal Diagnosis – Book One Part Seven
Credits: Gordon Rennie (script) Tiernen Trevallion (art) Ellie De Ville (letters)
Michael Mazzacane: If last week’s strip was an exercise in wanton cruelty, this week’s strip is back to the mean of subterfuge and hidden agendas. As Harry. Sangster, and the Young Lad hunt for a new member of their demonic suicide squad (the Emile) Jemma’s loyalties are tested.
Rennie and Trevallion do a good job of keeping up the tension on both plot threads. Prior strips used the dueling threads as a bit of an ironic release and commentary. In ‘Part Seven’ each thread on their own is functional but work better together because of their contrast. Jemma’s talk with her intelligence superior on why she’s stopped reporting in, is all crammed into an apartment and even when Trevallion drops backgrounds both bodies are too close for comfort. At the other end of the scale you have the chase after the Emile. Where the previous thread was overly cramped here it is wide open and that is equally terrible. The dynamism and open space make everything so uncertain. Even the promise of cat treats at the end dose little to calm the nerves.Continued below
Demons and their lot are often ugly, but I rather like the Emile’s design. It’s like Trevallion fused Dr. Caligari and Cesare together from the classic Robert Wiene film.