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: Integration
Credits: Rory McConville (script), Dave Taylor (art), Annnie Parkhouse (letters)
Greg Lincoln: ‘Integration’ is a pretty decent one and done story, a competent serious police procedural that, unlike nighttime police dramas, doesn’t descend into one red herring after another before finally solving the crime. The majority of the narration comes across as a casually written police report or a locker room tale from one Judge to another about the investigation. McConville uses a mixture of dialogue, interrogation and ‘voiceover’ narration to relay the story through a montage of interrogation, investigation, repeated unfortunate deaths and finally chasing down their only real lead. Between the tightly plotted events and the richly detailed art this is a pretty successful thriller tale overall. Admittedly our connection to the events and characters remains pretty surface level, we can feel for the victims but we never get much more then the exposition about the secrets and motivations behind the actors in the story. ‘Integrate’ is reminiscent of both Blade Runner and Altered Carbon in its narrative and even more so by its the rich visuals.
Dave Taylor’s art is a joy to see though if you like highly rendered euro sci-fi comics. These five pages could be part of one of those lavishly illustrated slick hardcover volumes. The opening page is a lovely pastel framing scene that takes us into the shadow heavy blackmail/murder mystery that follows. Taylor’s pages are alive with details in those panels wether it be in his line work, his lavishly rendered colors or in his intense use of lighting. The panels that have real life and impact are those that appear backlit or spotlit especially the moment right before the firefight. He also has given this one shot the feeling of a wide screen film His repeated use of page wide panels, at least once or more per page gives the story as a whole that cinematic impression.
Skip Tracer: Heavy Is The Head, Part Seven
Credits: James Peaty (script), Paul Marshall (art), Dylan Teague (Colours), Simon Bowland (letters)
Kent Falkenberg: Since the start of “Skip Trace,” James Peaty and Paul Marshall have been keeping a super-powered wild card in their back pocket. Hints of Nolan Blake’s psi-abilities have been lightly peppered into this strip from the very beginning. However, they’ve never been over. In ‘Heavy Is The Head, Part Seven,’ Peaty and Blake unleash them with an explosive flourish.
In keeping with his tendency to sell the urgency and severity of perilous moments through cleanly drawn facial expressions, Marshall paints surprise and disbelief over Blake’s face as his powers burst forth to incapacitate two assailants. It’s an effective scene and helps maintain an off-kilter sense of disorientation on Blake’s behalf. Peaty’s script has characterized Blake as being quite adept at his job. But this development adds an extra layer of complication. It’s as if to say that as shrewd as he is, he’s still one or two steps behind piecing it all together.
Marshall’s art is especially kinetic this week. The change-up of paneling when Blake teleports from The Underneath to the middle of a street right in the path of an oncoming vehicle provides a visceral thrill. There’s a sweeping sense of motion as Blake dives out of the way.
‘Heavy Is The Head, Part Seven’ feels like Peaty and Marshall are rounding the corner into their final act. And they’re racing forward with the same confidence they’ve had throughout.
The Order ‘The New World’ Part 1
Credits Kek-W (script) John Burns (art) Annie Parkhouse (letters)
Michael Mazzacane: “Show Don’t Tell” can be a tricky maxim to navigate in comics, despite being a visual medium. The fusion of words with pictures means playing to two different types of strengths. Writer Kek-W and artist John Burns, thread the needle beautifully in the first page of this latest round of “The Order.” As Citizen Berg is led the guillotine he is asked if he wants to make a final statement. He does in the next panel, by telling his executioner that he’s #1. Burns painterly color application gives everything a surprisingly lively feeling, but it’s that impish smile the half-Wyrm has as he meets his supposed end that sells the moment. Turning that sequence into a concave quadrant of panels also adds a sense of motion as everything slowly spills over one another.And than the strip turns into a chase sequence by way of The Thing.Continued below
Burns mixture of their figure work and color gives everything this beautiful, macabre, comedic quality. The veins and wormlike tendrils just sort of dangle and spill out as the body tries to reconnect. All the while blood seems literally to be splattered across the page. Yet, the panels themselves are kind of funny, how can one not chuckle at the sight of a headless body kicking soldiers in the balls and swinging their detached head like a weapon. Meanwhile Clark de Winter and the Robotknight watch proceedings amused and aghast.
Painterly aesthetics tend to have a bit of still quality to them, but Burns through his paneling gives everything a sense of life. While there are some pages that are more boxy than others, panels tend to be cutting diagonally through pages. Like the broken state of time “The Order” finds themselves in, pages seem to be shattering apart like glass. All of this makes for one of the most visually fresh strips in recent Progs.
Durham Red: Born Bad, Part 6
Credits: Elec Worley (script), Lee Carter (art), Ellie De Ville (letters)
Tom Shapira: So, if anybody thought Lee Carter was on last week’s strip as a pinch-hitter turns out he’s probably here to stay. I haven’t seen a lot of his work but he always struck me as more ‘atmospheric’ kind of artist rather a straight-up action guy. Still – some good work here as Booth and Durham Red are forced to take on some generic henchpersons. There’s some dodgy CGI-looking effects thrown in, Durham shooting down the drones is straight of PlayStation 2, and some of the poses are a bit too rigid to my taste, but otherwise Carter proves himself admiringly.
I especially enjoy the color-palate on the mountain chase – veering away from any sense of realism towards some oddly compelling background purples and sickly greens. As long as the characters are away from Earth it’s pointless to stick to naturalist coloring. This strip might not be the best use of Carter’s set of skills, but he does fine work in molding it into his own without losing the style Ben Wilsher established.
Writing-wise there’s definitely a bit of cliché-pumping going around: are we expected to believe Durham Red will truly leave the woman she chasing to face a squad of goons on her own? Of course not! Plot-wise It’s paint-by-numbers stuff, but this is a fun action chapter so it I can’t complain too much.
Damned: The Fall Of Deadworld, Part Seven
Credits: Kek-W (script), Dave Kendall (art), Ellie De Ville (letters)
Rowan Grover: An old face turns up to the deadly fray in Part Seven of “Damned”. Kek-W sheds light on the non-corrupted Judges still remaining in the city, with personal favourite hard-ass lady-judge Ava Eastwood returning back with style. Eastwood is written with all the typical Dredd tropes, having an uncompromising view of the law, but the contrast of being old-aged and female makes her so much more enjoyable to read. It’s a great way to establish narrative and literal story order with the Judges, previously fighting with desperation to survive, and now acting under Eastwood’s strict judicial view. Not only is it exciting to read, it also establishes them as an valid faction in the upcoming Headquarters showdown. Kek-W is setting up plenty of sides to appear in the inevitable climax of this story, making everyone’s alignments even more grey and an outcome even harder to guess, leaving readers with boundless excitement to see it all pan out.
The setting of this prog is firmly within the ruined City grounds, giving Dave Kendall less chance to spread his artistic wings. The opening page is a little shaky in terms of framing and character posing. The first panel feels like a homebrewed horror documentary, shaky camera et all, and the hounds look awkward and gangly, unfortunately not in a particularly frightening way. Kendall does seem to tighten back up after this however, almost in line with the narrative progression. When Eastwood arrives on the scene to bring order to the chaos, Kendall too visually becomes more coherent and fluid. I love the opening panel of the second page, introducing Eastwood as an armed and tough-as-nails threat, gunning down the undead forces with extreme prejudice. Kendall also seems to handle great emotion between the judges, especially between Eastwood and Biggs. Biggs seems to show great unconscious respect for Eastwood, the way he easily resigns to her command in the face of her unmoving stoicism.
Kek-W and Dave Kendall keep the ball rolling in Part Seven, bringing another group to face the City showdown, with great character and narrative intrigue, and solid as ever artwork from Kendall.