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: Echós Part 1” Part 3
Credits: Michael Carroll (script), Colin MacNeil (art), Chris Blyth (colors), Annie Parkhouse (letters)
Greg Lincoln:Judge Dredd’s Soviet adventure continues as their transport is taken out by one of the East Meg Judges in the wake of the previous story. There is a real if stark beauty to the pages delivered by Colin MacNeil and Chris Blyth showing Dredd and Salads, the other survivor of the crash, crossing the dangerous snow covered terrain. The colors chosen by Blyth and particularly his pink blue and blue green highlights reflecting off the snow create a clean yet frigid desperate feel to the panels. There is almost an animated quality to the art by MacNeil that is a good counterpoint to the seriousness of the situation. The pages are impactful, culminating in a splash that signals I think a bigger story to come.
The pacing of ‘Echóes’ has an effective build up from the interspersed retelling of the treachery leading to the crash. He shows Dredd and Salada’s cleverness, experience and ingenuity allowing their survival to their meeting with the scavenger group that may well become their saviors if only for a promised reward. The real beauty of this story is the way that it draws from the unbroken and un-rebooted or review history of the Judge Dredd Strip. Carroll hits us with the creator that is the site of East Meg One, the city that 35 years ago out time and comic Time Dredd himself was instrumental in destroying with a nuclear stockpile. I’ve never read that story from the early eighties but I’ve heard the title ‘Apocalypse War’ over the years and looked up the reference after finishing ‘Echóes.’ My memory of Dredd being behind a massacre was right and if I read things right I think the echo of that history is coming back to haunt Dredd now again.
Brass Sun: Engine Summer, Part 1
Credits: Ian Edginton (script), INJ Culbard (art), Ellie de Ville (letters)
Kent Falkenberg: And so we return again to the Wheel of Worlds.
There’s something of a formula when 2000AD blows the dust off a story that hasn’t seen the light in sometime. Luckily, Ian Edginton’s economical writing and INJ Culbard’s precision elegance keep things from feeling anything but formulaic in ‘Engine Summer, Part 1.’
The majority of the strip is a history lesson, which makes sense given it’s been about 2 years since we last traversed the orrery. Edginton is shrewd enough, however, to couch this lesson in a compact little narrative regarding a sky marshall of some sort conspiring with several other worlds’ leaders to hide each of their parts of the master key. Of course, all goes sideways from there. But this framework provides a bombastic entry point into the “Brass Sun” universe that’s both general enough to engage newcomers and contextual enough to expand on the lore in which experienced readers are versed. It’s a delicate juggling act that Edginton pulls off. But, to be fair, the real magic comes from Culbard.
Set against a re-telling of the Blind Watchmaker’s creation myth, Culbard’s opening panel starts with an extreme close-up on the teeth of a single gear biting into the cogs of another. From there, the focus pulls back to show the gears themselves before pulling back again to reveal a vast sea of gleaming yellow wheels enmeshed in one another. And overtop this last image, as Edginton’s narration spells prophecy of the Watchmaker and his machine mind, Merlin, Culbard draws a lifeless body drifting in the great expanse with a splatter of red floating back up towards the cogs. It’s a loaded page that juxtaposes the sheer brightness of its coloring with the grim, darkness of its themes of manipulated predestination.
There’s tons of room for the art to breath – an interstellar battle near the heart of the orrery splashes out over a full page and takes up most of the next. It sprawls out with such epic grandeur. And it perfectly encapsulates the scope and severity of what’s at stake. So when Culbard shows us the sullen, baggy face on the sky marshall as she recounts her plan, the pristine linework gives us a wearied, resigned leader who we can instantly understand. And from that, there’s an inherent pathos to know she’d never be one to go gently into the night.Continued below
In ‘Engine Summer, Part 1,’ Ian Edginton and INJ Culbard offer up some compact bombast in their clockwork history lesson. And the best part is this is just them winding up.
Savage: The Thousand Year Stare Book 2, Part 1
Credits: Pat Mills(script) Patrick Goodard(art) Ellie De Ville (letters)
Michael Mazzacane: It’s nice to be surprised from time to time, such is the case with the return of “Savage: The Thousand Year Stare.” This is a strip set in a post-war alien occupied world, whose protagonist is inexorably linked to that war and his hatred for the enemy Volgans, with art by Patrick Goodard that is the definition of black and white, you wouldn’t expect much for shades of moral grey and nuance as various parties try to navigate (and maybe overthrow) the current order.
As Bill Savage tries to enlist the help of local Edelweiss Pirates, he gets an earful about the toxic effects of broad brush historical narratives as it relates to World War II. Even as they are righteous in their refusal to help there is the gesture of recognition that carrying a hatred over something that happened 50 years before you were born is just as, if not more, toxic. Goodard’s art in these more thoughtful dialog driven sequences make an effective use of the pure black and white, faces are rendered in such stark contrast their hatred is clear and yet there is the slight room for nuance an emotional change. In a similar sequence as Savage and Voldina interrogate one another, and find they aren’t that different, both a rendered in the same black profile. If this strip didn’t turn into a solid sci-fi action piece, there’d be plenty of room for a nice spy thriller.
Gun fights are kind of boring in comics, it’s all call and response formally. But Goodard’s explosions and clean lines for the various lasers and what not give everything a cluttered but readable and dynamic view. Because of the black and white the design of the creature at the end feels a little overwrought but this strip is an effective use of black ink and overall design.
ABC Warriors: Fallout, Part One
Credits: Pat Mills(script), Clint Langley (art), Annie Parkhouse (letters)
Rowan Grover: Pat Mills’s latest entry in the “ABC Warriors” saga is both a catchup and a zero issue at once. Immediately we get the tone of a kind of post-apocalyptic tale, similar to “Judge Dredd” but with none of the satire and more of the depression. Kids are being hunted simple for being vermin, as the sort of new status quo, and Mills wants to firmly place you on the side of the rebels, the side of Tubal Caine. Yet what I love is that now there’s a heavier division between the warriors themselves – for newcomers, we only see two of them in this issue, and already they’re essentially positioned as enemies. There’s a lot of implied history here simply through Caine’s dialogue and it makes for some great worldbuilding.
The art here is thoroughly modern and digitally painted thanks to veteran Clint Langley. This feels reminiscent of older recent series like “Grey Area” and portrays the grim yet vibrant future tone the book is going for. The setting of Mekana, Mars in theory should be generic and bland but through the use of complex, almost stock photo like backgrounds and cinematic blurring effects, Langley gives Mekana a very lived-in, thoroughly rendered world. The action sequences are great, too. The shootout with Caine and the G Men feels like a modern update of the freestyle nature of old series artists like Kevin O’Neil. In particular, the sequence with Caine shooting from atop the crane hook is tense and fast-paced.
“ABC Warriors” is back with a new status quo and is continuing to grow in compelling directions. Once comrades are now at odds, there’s a new tonal setting, and Langley gets to drop in with some killer digital art. All in all, I’m excited to see where this heads.