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: Flaws, Part 1
Credits: T.C. Eglington (script), Staz Johnson (art), Abigail Bulmer (colors), Annie Parkhouse (letters)
Greg Lincoln: “Anger, Protests, Violence. Are we a city divided by our beliefs?” The opening quote from the Mega-City One Reporter, Mo Malik, could easily be any reporter any day in the real world. 2000AD, unlike some of its American comic cousins, is unafraid to lean into politics and make a statement. In ‘Flaws,’ T.C. Eglington’s script follows up on an earlier arc, ‘Icon,’ in issues 2050-2052, and the ‘Sons of Booth’ arc from 2030-2032. ‘Linus’ and his gang, the Sons of Booth, are stirring up trouble again between the John Higgs and John Gray blocks. All the people in positions of power and authority in the story, from Chief Judge Hershey to the leader of the Sons of Booth and the head of Malik’s media host, are willing to play the emotions and prejudices of the people who live in the blocks heading towards violence. This is one of the few times that a fair knowledge of the earlier arcs is kind of necessary to see the whole picture, even though what ‘Flaws’ foreshadows is unclear.
Staz Johnson and Abigail Bulmer do an excellent job of recreating the feel, if not the look, of Eglintions earlier arc with Colin McNeil and Chris Blythe. Their interpretations of Reporter Mo Malik, the Higg’s citizen Everyman Dug and Linus are near enough that it’s easy to recognize them. There are many little kitschy moments and details in this week’s story for them to add their own visual elements. The funniest had to be the busking clown Dredd (amazingly you can read his badge if you squint or zoom) collared for disturbing the peace. Possibly the creepiest scene closes this chapter: the reimagined Joe Dredd statue head, with its uncomfortable smile, is somehow chilling.
Jaegir: In The Realm of Pyrrhus, Part 4
Credits: Gordon Rennie (script), Simon Coleby (art), Len O’Grady (colours), Ellie de Ville (letters)
Kent Falkenberg: The focus shifts from Kapiten Jaegir and the Nort platoon she’s been running with to the Souther target identified at the end of last week’s strip. ‘In the Realm of Pyrrhus, Part 4’ is holed up in a Souther compound and introduces Madam-Facilitator Choi to the party.
This new character is stern and unforgiving of failure. Gordon Rennie skillfully weaves elements of her character into an opening scene in which a lieutenant offers up a report on the state of the war in her sector. For us as readers, it helps to illuminate which way the tides are crashing in the seemingly never-ending conflict between the Norts and Southers. But it also displays just how shrewd she is as a leader, as she easily gleans the truth of the situation by sifting through the spin her subordinate tries to put on the information.
Over the course of this well-executed introduction, Simon Coleby keeps his artistic flair restrained. His figure work his clean enough that we’re clear on who each of the new characters are, even though we’ve never met them before. The art never really pops this week, but that’s the product of a script that keeps the action limited to officers and administrators discussing news from the front as they walk down to corridors of a fatigued military complex.
‘In the Realm of Pyrrhus, Part 4’ serves its purpose well as an introductory chapter. Rennie hasn’t yet tipped his hand as to why Choi is such a valuable target, but that will come in time.
Sinister Dexter – The Devil Don’t Care, Part 2
Credits Dan Abnett(script) Steve Yeowell(art) John Charles(colors) Ellie De Ville(letters)
Michael Mazzacane: While there’s still some funting poor word choices, this strip is overall better than last weeks. Mainly because the comedy revolves around circumstance, imagery, and honesty instead of just saying “funt + some word.” Much like last week’s opening gag with the Devil coming at our duo guns drawn, this week revolves around trusting the hit men you just tried to kill as they wave their pieces around. Yeowell sets it up perfectly in the first panel as Ray comes up on Billi and Polly gun drawn. It’s not what it looks like, but it totally looks like it. A similar gag commences when Finn finally makes it to the scene. As British as the dialog can be at times, Finn’s explanation and dialect with Ellie De Ville’s letters and Yeowell’s art makes that moment land.Continued below
Having the running gag be a mystery as to whether this Devil is the supernatural force he claims to be or just be an escaped mental patient works in this crazy city. Yeowell’s character design already looks just slightly off compared to everyone, he has anime bangs. The reveal of a revived Devil is nicely timed, with the right amount of demonic menace. Ironically, his pose is similar to that of the background figures who are all trying to get away from these deadly hijinks. It’s a mystery I hope isn’t ever solved, his obsessive fan gimmick is an out there concept for strip about doing jobs.
It is worth noting how the art style changes when it comes to gunfire towards the end. Yeowell’s work is normally very straight edged with solid angular lines. Once guns start going off, colorist John Charles pallet gives proceedings a more painterly, impressionist, dynamic. Yeowell’s solid line work slowly goes away, everything becomes more cartooned and smushed together in these panels. Charles use of yellow-orange for muzzle flash gives everything a different kind of luminance from previous strips and panels. This change in style doesn’t really mesh with the normal one but it reads as more alive and threatening.
Anderson, Psi Division: Undertow, Part Four
Credits: Emma Beeby (script), David Roach (art), Jose Villarrubia (colors), Simon Bowland (letters)
Rowan Grover: This story is becoming more and more narratively surreal and strangely paced as it goes along. To Emma Beeby’s credit, it does work with the story. Having the free wheeling sense of storytelling in this prog works with the dreamy, psychic horror it’s established since the first part. The flying lizard beings shockingly introduced in the last part are easily disabled, however, which makes the reader break away from the story as we wonder what the threat is and what relevance the scene had. We do get more development into Karyn’s vampire psyche and her ability to control, but it’s relevance to the overarching plot of the unseen psi-monster is still uncertain. There is some great apocalyptic imagery throughout, but it’s few and far between.
David Roach’s art seems to be getting more angular and erratic, breaking from the smooth, Hollywood-style pencilling he seemed to utilise in the first part. It works well symbolically, whether purposefully or not, of the fact that Anderson’s reality seems to be slowly descending into psychic chaos. In terms of character work, Roach seems to have a sensibility reminiscent of Brian Bolland, especially when rendering Karyn’s vampire transformation. Roach uses a lot of solid line shading like Bolland which lends a deft realism to his humans. Jose Villarrubia on colors does well with the mostly green, yellow and blue palette of the judges, spreading it beyond the uniform and using it to render the geography and action shading, like when the undead creatures are shaded a dark green midst attacks to convey the mysterious nature of them.
“Undertow” still feels like a story trying to find its feet. There are definitely some fun elements, with the lizard monsters and Karyn’s development, but it’s just hard to tell what has relevance to the story or not.
Strontium Dog: The Son, Part 4
Credits: John Wagner (script), Carlos Ezquerra (art), Ellie De Ville (letters)
Tom Shapira: The strip this week feels a bit more traditionally plotted, with the newbie Kenton getting old pro Johnny Alpha into a troubling spot (from which he would probably pull him out and prove his worth). I was rather expecting this serial to go in more unorthodox route, but even if it follows basic storytelling tropes at least it does them well enough. I will say that Wagner’s ability to inset multiple scenes into seven short pages and making them work is cast aside here; the whole strip is one single scene that feels almost decompressed in the standards of 2000AD.
Still, I don’t think I can complain too much when the story lets Carlos Ezquerra draw a standoff with Johnny and browbeaten Kenton taking on some creepily designed aliens. It’s not quite as action packed as classic “Strontium Dog,” but Ezquerra pulls out some nice atmospheric build-up with the aliens slowly circling our unaware protagonists and end up revealing what exactly makes them so dangerous. It’s a tight little moment that reminds the reader, once again, what this creative team can do.