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: The Shroud, Part 2
Credits: Michael Carroll(script), Paul Davidson(art), Chris Blythe(Colors), Annie Parkhouse(letters)
Michael Carroll focuses mainly on the active threat to life and limb the slaves face in service to Maul this week. Much like the Dredd and his fellow slaves involved in this live bait hunt, we have no clue as to what makes the sought after squidipedes valuable to Maul or why they only have more value alive. All we do know is what the slaves know: either obey or suffer. What this chapter clearly established in it’s one rather talky scene was the uncomfortable, unhappy, and tenuous bonds between the slaves. Shirokov, threats, bravado, and bluster aside, is no fool; he knows his lot is in with the lawman, at least till he himself escapes. Nuala is more plainly practical, seeing them all being part of a team and knows to have any chance they need each other. Dredd is his ever nearly silent, cold, calculating self and may have a plan all his own that may or may not include saving anyone else. It’s a more involving chapter then Part 1, even though Maul and his slave driver remain one noted melodrama villains.
Paul Davidson and Chris Blythe’s pages were a treat this week; the action scenes were well paced and delivered a bit of comics nostalgia. A couple of well placed brightly colored sound effects in the 60’s Batman show mold punctuated the action that might otherwise have fallen flat. Davidson’s clever use of shadow and closeups keeps Dredd’s face hidden in ways that don’t fell too forced. Blythe bringing back the multicolored kaleidoscope added the depth that felt missing last week on several of the pages.
Bad Company: Terrorists, Part 6
Credits: Peter Milligan (script), Rufus Dayglo (art), Dominic Regan (colors), Simon Bowland (letters)
Hon Lee: This week, the momentum builds up just a little more with intensity than from the wayward previous installment. This strip delivered with meaningful new players, which is an improvement over the wave of random Ararat enemies like the Storm Troopers earlier on their journey. Even the lined memo dialogue by letterer Simon Bowland has picked up a notch and it backs up the emotional behaviour of these crazed war veterans.
The artwork is still a joy to behold. Rufus Dayglo’s art is as intricate in the graffiti linework – in particular the first two pages – with greater color emphasis by Dominic Regan on details like the green army uniform, deep purple landscape backgrounds and highlighted glow shading of the explosions. Plus, there is lot of in-depth facial expression with effective shadowing, especially of Mac and Danny Franks as we see them emblazoned in the larger panels.
The association with Mac and his old team mates has certainly strengthened the story and it has also led to a clearer understanding, as we now see a glimpse as to why he partook in the pits. I particularly enjoyed the banter and retorted remarks from Mac as it has sparked more reason for his rather distraught disassociation with the Bad Company. All in all, the direction has taken a more meaningful turn and I have certainly cleared any doubts raised in last week’s strip with the more focus on the face off with the Ararat authority.
Brass Sun: Engine Summer, Part 5
Credits: Ian Edginton (script), INJ Culbard (art), Ellie de Ville (letters)
Kent Falkenberg:”Wheels within wheels, eh?” Arthur’s brother gloats after connecting one heaving blow after another to Arthur’s face. “There’s always something we don’t know.”Continued below
That theme carries through Ian Edginton and INJ Culbard’s ‘Engine Summer, Part 5’ as we watch seemingly independent pieces go through their motions. And yet for all the adrenaline packed into this week’s strip, there’s a fatalistic element to the action. Arthur, Septimus, and even Wren herself are all just spinning cogs that were wound up years ago in plans within plans with plans.
Edginton scripts the action in such a way that the sequences themselves spin from one to another as if they were the teeth from one gear biting into the teeth of another. Wren flees from the scene of Arthur’s beatdown only for Bors to chase her down only for Septimus to poke his head into the fray. It all plays out like pristine clockwork.
Culbard’s work is vivid throughout a more raucous installment than has been seen in some time. The punches to his head knock Arthur free of the panel walls. Motion lines punctuate most of the images and instills ‘Engine Summer, Part 5’ with panicked and emphatic energy.
It didn’t always seem that the stakes or energy would be ramped up this high. But after steadily building up steam over the past month, Edginton and Culbard provide a spike of adrenaline in “Engine Summer, Part 5,” that should carry this arc through to an emphatic climax.
Savage: The Thousand Year Stare Book 2 Part 6
Credits:Pat Mills(script) Patrick Goodard(art) Ellie De Ville (letters)
Michael Mazzacae: This strip has been filled with some spectacular set pieces and art to match. The promised fight between Savage and Quartz is anything but, it was never going to be. The mythic veneer of that kind of action has been scrubbed off. All it is now is egotistical violence. That and, as Quartz says he’s got plenty of anti-persona weapons installed. It isn’t that Goodard’s art during this brief bit of action is bad, it isn’t, just the fight was never supposed to be that.
Goodard dose an interesting bit when melding the historical analogies Quartz is making with the present. Kind of like the graffiti he’s littered the hospital with, the grandiose images Quartz is supposed to conjure with his speech appears alongside him instead of being relegated to their own panels as in the previous strip. It provides a nice backdrop to bad guy monologuing at the very least.
That new found feeling of helplessness runs through the strip as the baddies have the upper hand. Even the last ditch daring escape isn’t as grand as it would’ve been a few weeks ago, it’s over before it even started.
Normally I find the melodramatic cliff hangers of these strips to be more a trope than something affecting, this one is an effective place to end things, Savage captured and subjected to the titular stare. Goodard for his part does an excellent job of making the final images a mix between this is bad and Savage’s going to kill them all just you wait. The dark circles around the eyes make for an ambivalent signifier of either withered zombie like from other victims or Savage angry face. That not quite dead stare, looking at forever, is a potent final image.
ABC Warriors: Fallout, Part Six
Credits: Pat Mills(script), Clint Langley (art), Annie Parkhouse (letters)
Rowan Grover: This chapter works as a solid interlude to the many conflicts within ‘Fallout’ at the moment. We get an semi-outsider standpoint, as one of the oldest ABC Warriors, Joe Pineapple, takes a look at what’s going on, and gets to go full on Punisher pastiche. The first few pages are a great lot of inner monologue from Joe as he talks about the irony about how the people ‘ended up like robots now… HA HA HA!’, explaining to newer readers that people originally developed these robots to spend time on being creative and instead got hooked on reality TV. The plot then further develops as Joe runs into Gottlieb and Ro-Jaws who are essentially the Rosencrantz and Guildenstern of this tale, making light of the situation for readers and also pushing Joe to recognise the true foe out there, ‘General Public’.Continued below
The art here is solid as always, and in line with the theme, the first page feels like a homage to the first Punisher cover on “Amazing Spider-Man” #129. We get great little snapshots of Joe aiming down generally unaware citizens of the public as he describes their descent into monotony. In the background of these shots, Langley includes some great propaganda like ‘NO TALKING AT ANY TIME’ that sets the tone and pushes the idea that the government are trying to keep the populace as zombie-like as possible. I do really like the setting work that Langley does in the scene with Ro-Jaws and Gottlieb, it seems to portray the more constructed and lower-developed parts of the city that are so neglected that the duo can afford to linger their without interruption.
‘Fallout’ seems to be developing into quite a big story for the warriors considering that chapter six only seems to be an interlude to the action. There’s some great character work and setting up here, and it’s always fun to see the reintroduction of an old favourite.