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: Elevator Pitch Part 1
Credits Rob Williams (script), Chris Weston (art), Chris Blythe (colors), Annie Parkhouse (letters)
Greg Lincoln: ‘Elevator Pitch’ is a downright gorgeously illustrated “Judge Dredd” outing. Even before to the storytelling the richly detailed panels by Chris Weston and Chris Blyth draw you into this story. There are some art teams who’s work can make you hear the ambient noise their images might make and I get that from these two craftsmen. Annie Parkhouse ,who’s sound effects have made crucial moments work in other arcs needs do little of that in ‘Elevator Pitch.’. Weston and Blythe are one of the few art teams that can manage to differentiate their uniformed characters well without the necessity of showing their badges. All their faces are distinctly different despite seeing only their chin and mouth. Their design work for the mega rich people are suitably, pretentious and both boring and gaudy. Even the designer who aspires to Rudy Rhod from The Fifth Element fails to fully grasp that high mark of weird and style. Even after last weeks artistic treat from Dave Taylor this week really does stand out on the page.
Given the current widening inequality gap in the world, particularly in the US, Rob Williams story spotlighting the way the rich see themselves abound the rest of the populace is very timely. He makes it very easy to see who he’s lampooning by naming the above the rabble resort “Mar-o-Larger Then Yours.” Williams does little to endear the upper crust nameless rich to the readers, after a word vomit castigation of the non-elite, ie the rest of us. They are reduced to caricature, one dimensional fixtures and you know it ok actually. Judge Dredd, in a moment of ironic levity, points out that rich and poor fill and iso-cell equally well before adding that the high profile media event for the post elevator and it’s destination “Mar-a-Largo-Larger” is just too likely a target for attack. If anything the only aspect of the story that is a bit off is the use of a news report to deliver the exposition. It’s a good way to effectively hide an info-dumps well, but as it was recently used in another “Judge Dredd” story the gimmick kind of stands out here. ‘Elevator Pitch’ has some very Williams like moments of pun-ish levity like the synth-banana come “weapon,” the mention of artisan brakes, and I suspect that someone will almost certainly get pitched from the Elevator given time.
Skip Tracer: Heavy Is The Head, Part Eight
Credits: James Peaty (script), Paul Marshall (art), Dylan Teague (Colours), Simon Bowland (letters)
Kent Falkenberg: “Whatever comes next isn’t going to be pretty,” says Nolan Blake about halfway through ‘Heavy is the Head, Part Eight.’ James Peaty and Paul Marshall have led Blake through a winding labyrinth of threats, allegations, lies and coverups. And now, after having him scour the seedy nooks and crannies of the Cube, they’ve finally let him piece everything together.
Marshall’s work is as kinetic as ever as Blake darts and rolls his way through a pistol battle – the effects of which are bloody and visceral. There’s a clear sense of impact in the art that truly captures the sense we’re reaching the culmination of Peaty’s endgame. What is perhaps most effective though is the subtle symmetry that’s infused into the paneling and framing of the action. And Marshall places Blake right in the heart of this symmetry. For a series that’s used perspective to demonstrate how truly out of his depth Blake has been, this is a fantastic choice to emphasize a shift in power as “Skip Tracer” sprints towards it’s conclusion.
Peaty’s script lines up the many breadcrumbs dropped along the way: the voices in Blake’s head, his alluded to powers, an inevitable double-cross. Sure, some the plotting might have been telegraphed, but it never feels forced.Continued below
‘Heavy Is The Head, Part Eight’ is building towards a bloody, messy finish. Peaty and Marshall serve up another fantastic dose of tech-noir finese.
The Order ‘The New World’ Part 2
Credits Kek-W (script) John Burns (art) Annie Parkhouse (letters)
Michael Mazzacane: The duel promised at the end of the last strip pays off in this one. The action in the previous strip was mostly chasing in nature, hand to hand or sword to sword combat is a different matter. Burns style adds an interesting dimension, there’s an impressionist quality to some panels that lack outlining. This lack of outline gets rid of depth and sort of smushes things together, the one where de Winter’s wig is snatched comes to mind. It makes the images messy, but also sort of lively which is a more important idea to get across in a fight. The use of long tracking lines to imply motion as punches and swords fly is a bit much and runs counter to earlier artistic choices.
I’m not someone totally familiar with “The Order,” I’m catching up on the most recent strips. But this one does a good job in characterizing how ruthless and driven Anna Kohl is. From the opening page mixing in flashback and catching her opponents sword with her own hand, to turning on the wyrm son of Cyrano de Bergerac and rending limb from body. Burns draws de Bergerac with an expression mixing contempt and respect. It’s always impressive to see how quickly the creative teams work to characterize someone.
Obviously objects in the foreground get more detail, but how Burns handles backgrounds in particular the crowds in the last couple of pages is wonderful. They’re anonymous and uninitated in this shadow war. Burn uses color to just dot everything in the background creates the sense of a normal world and also demonstrates the sense of distance between them and the cast. You could really spend sometime just looking over this strip and seeing how Burns uses color to balance and draw everything out.
Durham Red: Born Bad, Part 7
Credits: Elec Worley (script), Lee Carter (art), Ellie De Ville (letters)
Tom Shapira: a fight scene chapter, and a rather well-done one at that. I especially enjoy the way Durham Red’s body transforms into almost abstract-like shadow as she rushes at super-speed, a blur for her enemies, and how her form is pushed to side of the page, forcing the eyes to wander away from the central image in order to see her properly.
It’s these well-done artistic tricks by Lee Carter that distract from how ‘convenient’ the writing of this chapter feels: turns out this alien planet has its own swarms of bat-like creatures that appear just in time to make a metaphorical point about the savage nature of our heroine, and as a bonus point they also help to disguise her movement and put the fear of Red into the goons chasing her. Are these meant to be actual bats imported from Earth? Is this a power of Durham Red I am not aware of? Possibly this would’ve been better if the creatures were more alien in nature, drawn as is it’s easy to forget this story is meant to take place in a different world. As is their appearance is just too big a coincidence.
There’s also a twist here that was pretty obvious from at least two chapters ago, one of these character swerves that the reader will notice quite easily which makes it weird that a professional bounty hunter like Durham Red failed to notice it. This is a decent-enough chapter but ultimately it feels like the ramp-up for the conclusion.
Damned: The Fall Of Deadworld, Part Eight
Credits: Kek-W (script), Dave Kendall (art), Ellie De Ville (letters)
Rowan Grover: Finally, the main event, the collision of all plot paths of “Damned” begins. We see Psiren begin here coup against the Dark Sisters, although to no avail. It’s a satisfying moment at first, but then Kek-W seemingly shuts the character’s story down by having the Sisters reveal their demise as an illusion, which seems counterintuitive to building Psiren up as a likeable and interesting character. As for the main plot between Jess and the Judge Death, we get some more foreshadowing about Jess’ destiny through the Psi-Division in the City, and character development with her willingness to help out those less privileged in the plane crash. However, this prog mostly just feels like the kick off to the main event, more of a transition between build-up and payoff. There doesn’t feel like much else here other than the bridging of separate narratives, although it’s too short to fully represent each faction.
Regardless of the script’s content, Dave Kendall delivers a dynamite, cinematic presentation. His linework seems much cleaner and vibrant than last prog, with better use of sharpened focal points to highlight the characters in the midst of a calamitous background. I love the opening sequence, regardless of the fact it’s an illusion in the narrative. Kendall positions Psiren as a powerful figure, standing uncaring above the burning corpses of the Dark Sisters, a satisfying moment for readers until they turn the page. But I love that Kek-W allows for a full 1.5 pages of wordless art when Jess’ ship crashes into the Citadel. It’s a strong sequential moment that feels appropriately big and heavy, positioning the camera above the action so that any commentary or voice aren’t necessary. It’s a great way for Kendall to show off his art as storytelling, and feels like a big moment to signal the beginning of the end for this book.
Part Eight of “Damned” is cinematic and big, but doesn’t hold much weight on it’s own. It’s a transition period for the story, with some fantastic art but not much in the way of character development or narrative progression, save for a questionable offing of an important character.