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: Live Evil
Credits: Ian Edginton(script), Dave Taylor(art), Annie Parkhouse (letters)
Greg Lincoln: ‘Live Dead’ is pretty much a hit from its first two, near totally silent, pages from the pen and brushes from Dave Taylor. Taylor’s eight gorgeous widescreen opening panels of the space ship Hettie crashing into Mega-City One set the scene and the feeling of “what the hell,” right away. Taylor’s use of an iconic looking sky surfer in the foreground watching the crash in the distance really says “Judge Dredd” without any other cues. Taylor’s work with really open lines and rendered color allows him to really play with light and shadow to great effect’ his pages have a kind of animated 3-D kind of quality to them.
Ian Edginton’s dialogue gives the rundown of the essentially ‘locked room’ mystery that the Hettie presents, given the violent deaths of its entire crew. He sets up a good solid mystery about the loss of the ship, what they were searching for, and what they might have found. He cleverly introduces a psi Judge, Lamia, who can not tune out the dead as a way to easily find the answers to this mystery. She needs isolation in the wake of the last great disaster in Mega-City One for her sanity sake. Dredd’s manipulation of her situation is pretty reprehensible, making her instantly sympathetic.
Bad Company: Terrorists, Part 9
Credits: Peter Milligan (script), Rufus Dayglo (art), Dominic Regan (colors), Simon Bowland (letters)
Tom Shapira: Another fun, but unfortunately incomplete, read this week. The centerpiece is the introduction of the “Schrodinger’s Dog” machine that allows bored soldiers to play Russian Roulette. Mac, still suffering from PTSD, naturally decides to take it for a spin, and because this a comics about a BAD company rather than a NICE company, you can be sure things won’t great for him.
I like the idea of the machine in theory, but there’s hardly any space to explain what it does other than in the vaguest terms possible and Mac’s reasoning to take it seems to be motivated more by the needs of the plot than any actual character driven moment (he thinks a “brush with death” might do him good, but surely all the fighting they’ve been doing recently took him very close to death’s door). At least the script gives the art team plenty to chew on – check out Dominic Regan’s psychedelic background colors as Mac is strapped-in and Rufus Dayglo is obviously heaving a blast drawing up all the scenery. There’s emotional anchor here, but it’s not heavy enough to carry what Peter Milligan is trying to do.
Savage: The Thousand Year Stare Book 2 Part 9
Credits: Pat Mills(script) Patrick Goodard(art) Ellie De Ville (letters)
Michael Mazzacane: The difference between a good stand off and a bad stand off is tension, that unnerving feeling that even while things seem in neutral tiny forces are slowly working underneath the surface to disrupt that state of play. The stand off that comprises the majority of this strip isn’t that tense, which is a bummer because artist Patrick Goodard hits all the right presentational notes for a standoff. The sequence features a few all-encompassing panels that show everyone and the distance between them, in between these moments everyone else largely cut off from one another which reinforces the sense of distance. On a macro level that’s how you would create a sense of tension slowly going in and out of each member in the stand off gives the other the sideye.
It’s the micro level where things are undercut, by a few moments that muddy the spatial geometry of everything. Muddied spatial dynamics undercuts tension because it makes the reader wonder “wait … what?” If there was color in this book, solid abstract background may have worked better but here they just confuse things as characters coalesce around one another in awkward fashion. Which is a bummer since Goodard’s environmental work in prior strips has been so fantastic.Continued below
Any lack of fulfillment from that stand off is fully erased, however, by the image of the robotic Howard declaring “Because I own the cookie jar.” Letter Ellie De Ville embellishes the mustache twirling villainy of such a line with a jagged word balloon that just sells the moment perfectly as the mid-century cyborg goes full Daniel Plainview. That delightful moment is paired with the equally camp, from undue self-serious, declaration that Savage is “happy” Howard cannot enjoy the cookies anymore because he put in that robotic body. This strip has gotten into some fairly heavy metaphoric dialog about the nature of arms control and governance, but it’s still got room for some utter cheese and that’s pretty nice.
Brass Sun: Engine Summer, Part 9
Credits: Ian Edginton (script), INJ Culbard (art), Ellie de Ville (letters)
Kent Falkenberg: It’s quite fitting that the first images INJ Culbard focuses on are swirls of blood. As his paneling pulls back, it’s revealed that these swirls have tainted a bowl of water that Wren is using to tend the wounds of her friend who crash landed last week. It’s an evocative way to open ‘Engine Summer, Part 9,’ given what we learn.
As the strip progresses, Ian Edginton reveals that the time jump we’ve experienced is dangerously close to a decade – even Wren herself isn’t sure exactly. But in that time bloodshed has swept throughout the Orrery. Given Merlin’s demise, it’s The Prime Numbers who’ve become the aggressors now.
In order to catch us up, ‘Engine Summer, Part 9’ may be a little heavy on the exposition. However, Edginton’s script is never overbearing in this regard. And Culbard’s art is varied enough in paneling and composition that it always feels like things are progressing forward, even though the strip is basically just a conversation between old friends. The fact the whole thing takes place on the shell of a prehistoric tortoise that’s become Wren’s home, conveyance and sole companion just makes it that much smoother to watch.
Overall, Edginton and Culbard deliver another rock solid installment.
ABC Warriors: Fallout, Part Nine
Credits: Pat Mills(script), Clint Langley (art), Annie Parkhouse (letters)
Rowan Grover: And finally, the Warriors reunite for a no-holds-barred showdown. Admittedly, this chapter is mostly style over substance, giving readers a good reintroduction to the team and their adversaries, but it feels like a well-earned release after all the build up to this point. Mills has both sides working together in a way that feels fair, not overpowering any particular side or having one team more dysfunctional than the other. What this chapter mostly focuses on is the fight between Mongrol and Volkong, his counterpart in the Marsokhods. Blackblood appears in Volkong’s programming, which builds up his identity as a villain as he continuously taunts Mongrol through this persona. As I said, however, this is mostly a reintroduction chapter and there’s not much else to it storywise.
In terms of art, this is a veritable whirlwind showcase. Langley gets to strut his stuff in the first two pages, get a double-page splash of each team being shown at their most proud or ferocious. Langley paints them like murals, giving them a long landscape grandeur that feels sequential as your eye follows it along. There’s also some great moments between Volkong and Mongrol, who get to clash together like the brilliant robot Hulk analogues they are.There’s a panel on the third-to-last page that has them butting heads that feels like a great pinnacle of their shortly-live battle.
Not only does this chapter feel like a great payoff, it likely works just as well as a jumping on point for readers mid story. Mills provides a great introduction to everyone that feels like an arena announcer, and Langley gets to provide unabashedly huge battle scenes. Jump in with “ABC Warriors before it’s too late.