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 Paradigm Shift Part 2
Credits Michael Carroll(script), Jake Lynch(art), John Charles(colors). Annie Parkhouse(letters)
Greg Lincoln: Michael Carroll created a very clever script this week, one that actually makes picking up his novella more attractive. Rather then spell out his plot simply he laid out the clues for us to put together ourselves, engaging the reader more in the story. In Dredd’s era he posits the question of why the Pleiades tablet is important and then in the flashback though he never mentions the stolen item he implies the dangerous information it contains. Judge Deacon’s interrogation of Brigadier General Corrado reveals that he agent that sent her her after the nerve agent had a list of thirty sets of coordinates even though she only was sent to a single site. The hint implies the rest of the story. It’s clever, the scripting involves the reader in the story more then simple exposition. Carroll also seems to have something to say about the way Judges operate as a single law enforcement entity. In the past, Judge Deacon explains in plain English that his word is literally law in no uncertain terms and that the “chain of command is broken. In Dredd’s era, he shows Dredd and his partner, Joyce, collaring Lugo, the perp who burgled Cake’s shop. Though I didn’t catch it on first reading, they bust into his apartment unannounced, no “Judges, drop your weapons…” or anything. Dredd arrests him on the charge of shifting at Judges, something they themselves caused. Yes, Lugo is a criminal, but the whole event seems sketchy. In reality police and governmental abuse of authority is a real present issue and it’s interesting that Carroll remind us that the Law in “Judge Dredd” is very equally callable of being unjust. The oddest story beat of that scene was the grin that Lynch put on Dredd’s face when he’s coercing information out of Lugo.
Jake Lynch and John Charles’s art again is reminiscent of the classic Dredd artists Mike McCone and Carlos Esquerrez. Lots of the scenes this week are medium to long shots and John Lynch shows a real skill in communicating feeling through posture. He often does not have the power of a clear facial expression to say someone is as unimpressed or uncowed as his final panel does for the woman Judge Deacon faces. Through John Charles’s pallet this chapter showed that the Judges chosen in the past represented a wider cultural base then the mostly white Judges of Dredd’s time. All of Deacon’s team both in style and color represent more of the world the your usual book. It’s a really good thing to see…except part one established that the women with Deacon were pretty pale actually. Their skin tones stood out to me and I had to look back to last week and see why.
Skip Tracer: Heavy Is The Head, Part Four
Credits: James Peaty (script), Paul Marshall (art), Dylan Teague (Colours), Simon Bowland (letters)
Kent Falkenberg: Nolan Blake retraces his own steps this week, while James Peaty and Paul Marshall let the mystery simmer. “Skip Tracer” is becoming more and more of a hard-boiled noir with each passing week. Peaty serves up a platter of conventions that fit right in with pulpy detective fiction. And even though these might be some paces we’re used to, Marshall’s crisp artwork makes the execution feel smooth.
As ‘Heavy Is The Head, Part Four’ opens, Blake’s paying off a morgue worker for a little extra info. Later, Marshall’s shows him furrowing his brow, trying to fit the pieces of the case together as he sits in a dark lit office that’s empty save for overdue rent notices and a three-quarters empty whiskey bottle that’s disappearing by the minute. There’s another flashback to Blake’s military past that serves double duty in exploring his backstory and explaining how he can so quickly make connection between the murder weapon used and the potential suspects it implicates. Marshall changes up his panel choices and page layouts enough that the strip never feels stagnant, even though the action is limited to Blake’s mulling over the case at the morgue and the crime scene.Continued below
Peaty and Marshall have finally pulled back the curtain on what exactly this strip is. ‘Heavy Is The Head, Part Four’ tips their hand to being a tech-inflected noir. And as such, it’s really hitting its methodical stride.
Survival Geeks – Geek-Con Part Three
Credits Gordon Rennie & Emma Beeby(script) Neil Googe(art) Gary Caldwell(colors) Annie Parkhouse(letters)
Michael Mazzacane: If last strip was characterized by Neil Googe filling panels with old aristocratic disdain for the youths, this strip is him filling it with unbridled anger and existential crisis. Clive has had enough of this and out of fear for the timeline begins to take actions that would not be out of place in Falling Down. Sam meanwhile is a woman at a convention. The panel of the Women in Interdimensional Travel panel doesn’t really add anything new to the conversation about structural changes to create better productive access to anyone who isn’t a dude – to say nothing of behavioral changes – but the image of Sam sitting on the end in a folding chair while 3 clearly male coded characters just lament the statistical improbability of women being a meaningful audiences to this culture in their cushy chairs was perfect.
I’m consistently surprised at some of the efficient storytelling in these strips as Rennie and Beeby work in a sequence built on pedantic nerdy as a means to move the plot forward once everyone realizes Simon is missing. It all culminates in brilliant exasperating panel as Clive proclaims “Damn you fandom.” He so wants his intellect and rules to be respected.
While it feels fitting in a “200A.D.” sense to display the concept as fandom as moths drawn to the flame of celebrity and product, I hope there is a bit more of a twist coming. Rennie and Beeby are solid writers and the stereotype they are mocking (which clearly exist) isn’t the totality of the fan subject. With where things end up for Simon, it seems like a possibility that further twists are coming.
Damned: The Fall Of Deadworld, Part Four
Credits: Kek-W (script), Dave Kendall (art), Ellie De Ville (letters)
Rowan Grover: In an interesting turn of storytelling, Kek-W turns us right away from the main narrative to drop in on the villain’s hub and see how they’re doing. We see Chief Judge Death’s centre of business, and the noble Sister Psiren, trying hard to keep a sense of order in a place largely filled with Chaos. It’s a good change of pace, freshening up the story before the main narrative wears thin. My only qualm was it took a while to adjust to such a sudden change, especially with one of the new characters being a shape changing and making the reading a little disorienting at first. But it’s easy enough to follow from halfway, giving us a new insight on what is keeping the main protagonists going. The most compelling part to me is seeing the power struggle between Death and the Sisters Nausea and Phobia, keeping it blurry who is truly in charge of impending apocalypse.
Watching Dave Kendall change from Mad Max-style open landscapes to haunted secret bases is great fun to take in. Every page of this prog oozes decay, feeling appropriately dirty for a base set up by undead beings. What’s even more fun is watching how Kendall renders said beings with gruesome detail. The first few pages are great fun, with the stoner-esque Casey looking seedily thing, and it’s grotesquely entrancing taking in the panel of Noface’s shape-shifting visage transform from Casey’s to Psiren’s. The way that Kendall draws Judge Death feels like a hauntingly realistic take on the character, too. This version of Death isn’t larger than life, but his abyssal face draws the reader in to give him a commanding presence. What’s more, his stature feels appropriate to his condition. His tunic loosely hangs off him, his belt looks too big, and his limbs are gangly and unnerving. This is not a Death we’re used to seeing, but his uncomfortable appearance makes him all the more terrifying.
“Damned: The Fall Of Deadworld” is playing the longform card here by dedicating an entire prog to developing the bad guys up, and I love it. It’s disorienting at first, but once Kek-W and Dave Kendall immerse you, you become invested in see how this side plays out and how it connects to the main narrative.Continued below
Durham Red: Born Bad, Part 3
Credits: Elec Worley (script), Ben Willsher (art), Ellie De Ville (letters)
Tom Shapira: After a lukewarm start I feel like I’m starting to get a hang on what Elec Worely wants to do with this character: hot on the trail of a missing woman Durham Red comes across an old acquaintance from her days as an official strontium dog (though I’m not really sure if she’s licensed here or just does freelance work) who is also in the process of turning a new leaf; or, as it turns out – not at all. So this a story about people trying to escape the circumstances of their birth / social statue and, so far, not really succeeding.
It’s a simple and strong theme, perfectly fitting for a character that is both a mutant and (through the public’s eye) a literal vampire – Red is twice damned, she has no venues open to her other than to be the “bitch” she always was. Putting her against a shape changing adversary, someone who can chose to do something else (though at the cost of his selfhood, which is something this story does not explore), is a good idea. The problem is that ending of this chapter feels too abrupt, like the creative team was running low on pages and instead of stretching this over two weeks they just decided to move on.
Ben Willsher is still in fine form, though as mentioned before he seems to be more comfortable with the various mutants and monsters than with the human body – I think something the texture of the skin colors make them appear plastic-y; though that would probably not bother most.
It’s not the strongest of showings but “Born Bad” seems to be finding its place.