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 2
Credits Rob Williams (script), Chris Weston (art), Chris Blythe (colors), Annie Parkhouse (letters)
Greg Lincoln: Turns out that ‘Elevator Pitch’ was just a two parter. Despite the fact that it does not need to be longer as Rob Williams, Chris Weston, Chris Blythe and Annie Parkhouse brought the story to a satisfactory conclusion I’m left mildly disappointed with the ending. William’s brought a lot of elements to the finale including a delivery of the implied pitch of someone from the elevator. During the firefight instigated by Dredd and an undercover Wally Squad Judge we learn that the designer of the the Poshtube is in fact a poser and is not ‘posh’ at all, he hired the self-same uplifted apes to build the baroque elevator who took them hostage. Amid the chaos of the assault several characters meet their maker and much like Dredd’s comment last week about jail death comes to all of then equally regardless of wealth. When all is said and done though the story is just a bit too simple feeling and I feel cheated to just briefly see Dredd’s partner Giant appear then get immediately sidelined as the tale ends. ‘Elevator Pitch’ is fine, it needed to be this long at least, but there is just something that feels lacking in the end.
Weston and Blythe did not skimp on the art, they provided story beats that the script itself doesn’t allude to. Though Williams gave us little reason to feel for the hostages, their kidnappers or the crowds in the story, Weston’s art gives readers a chance to feel for them. His faces in addition to being very recognizable last week communicate a lot of emotion this time around. The pages that Weston, Blythe and Parkhouse created are alive with rich details. Unlike some artists though who’s pages are confused or give you no clear focus this team give you clear focus and places to rest your eyes in ways that you don’t consciously notice. ‘Elevator Pitch’ is a pretty story, it has a few things to say but it’s also one that might largely be forgettable.
The Order ‘The New World’ Part 3
Credits Kek-W (script) John Burns (art) Annie Parkhouse (letters)
Michael Mazzacane: Normally a page that is essentially a repeated image three times over in a setting like this would be major waste of space. From an efficiency standpoint it likely is. John Burns draws Anna Kohl journeying deep into catacombs beneath Prague three times over, each time getting a little closer and obstructing the geography. It may not be the clearest way to illustrate going deeper, but it gives artist John Burns three separate images to just play around with the torch lighting her path and the subtleties that light source creates. It’s worth just sitting on those pages and looking at how he handles the lighting.
The monk who oversees the grounds Anna treads upon said people thought it was haunted. They weren’t wrong, Wyrms came through here. For Anna though it’s something a bit more. With Burns art, having things be purely incorporeal and ghosty likely would’ve worked, but Wyrms leave a trace and Anna has to confront an even more haunting presence in the flesh: Alternative Ritter. The appearance of the man she is searching for, but not. Burns gets some excellent expression out of Anna’s face, it isn’t all grief. One panel in particular is more a angered denial as she flicks Alt Ritter’s metallic hand away. This sequence does a good job quickly playing with the inherent drama of doppelgangers.
The brief action spot in this strip has better flow compared to previous ones. Prior spots had a lot of sweeping action lines, this sequence is more direct as Anna mercilessly goes for the throat. It’s a beautiful three panel half page ish sequence that flows one to another on action beats. Following the thrusts of her sword makes for an invigorating read compared to the wider arcs of prior sequences.Continued below
Skip Tracer: Heavy Is The Head, Part Nine
Credits: James Peaty (script), Paul Marshall (art), Dylan Teague (Colours), Simon Bowland (letters)
Kent Falkenberg: “Two billion souls sigh as I close my eyes and share the whole sorry story with them…” Nolan Blake monologues as the book closes on the case that’s kept him scouring every seedy nook and cranny of his cramped little world. “And then in unison, they simply shrug and say, ‘That’s life in the Cube.'”
James Peaty and Paul Marshall shore up the loose ends of “Skip Tracer” with about as Chinatown an ending as they can muster. Murders are solved, and a few of the perpetrators get their comeuppance. But for all the corruption and power-mongering that’s been uncovered, there’s no sea change to come for any residents of the Cube. Peaty’s script never reinvents the wheel, but it never really needs to as he wraps up this tech-noir in tidy fashion.
Marshall’s art gets another chance to dabble with sci-fi, super-powered flourishes. These moments seem to sparkle with energy and traverse across the page with emphatic motion. It’s a nice foil to the grounded, detail he applies to every characters face. The art throughout this series has been smooth, and this finale is certainly no exception.
‘Heavy is The Head, Part Nine’ is the type of confident finish that was easy to see coming. But just because we’ve seen it before, doesn’t mean it’s not fun to see it again. Peaty and Marshall have crafted a tight story, and a whole sketchy world to explore, in their cramped little box in space.
Damned: The Fall Of Deadworld, Part Nine
Credits: Kek-W (script), Dave Kendall (art), Ellie De Ville (letters)
Rowan Grover: Part Nine focuses on Jess and her compatriots fighting their way through the corrupt citadel. This is another chapter that’s a little light on narrative drive, similar to last week, but there are a few interesting plot developments occurring here to keep readers interested. I love that Kek-W still maintains the disdain between Patti and Puta, making for light comedic effect throughout the grim action, and giving a female character a powerful role. Kek-W also has a good handle on portraying Judge Death in this series. He’s not displayed out in front constantly, but rather as operating in the shadows and off to the side, giving him an almost mythological feel. It’s also interesting how in the same page, Kek-W uses all the different factions on the Dark Judges’ side throughout different panels to convey a message. It makes the world feel bigger, and serves as a good way of passing time in the narrative without displaying physical progression.
Kendall delivers some beautiful work here as always, but some of the action tends to feel a little stiff. From the first page, we get Patti and Jess fighting the Citadel’s troops, with vibrant colors, and some great sequential action, particularly showing the trooper’s pack being blown before exploding. However, the panel showing Agatha with her bow looks awkwardly posed, and the panel of Patti preparing her knife also looks unnatural. The issue picks up significantly from here with some great single moments, however. I love the panel of Casey kicking back in a chair with a cigarette because it’s so believable and in character. And the following page is even more striking, with one of the Dark Judges sitting up straight comfortably and painfully facing the reader, speaking ‘I SSSEE YOU, PATTI HALLIDAY’. The way that Kendall poses this shot, with the character sitting outside the panel borders, makes it really pop and feel like a direct accusation to the voyeuristic reader.
This act still feels like it’s creaking from being overstuffed with characters and content, yet Kek-W and Dave Kendall still do a great job of managing every aspect of “Damned”. Come for the bloody knife-fights, stay for the Byke-related drama.
Durham Red: Born Bad, Part 8
Credits: Elec Worley (script), Lee Carter (art), Ellie De Ville (letters)
Tom Shapira: “Born Bad” ends pretty much how you expect it to end. There’s a grim last confrontation between Durham Red, Bootha and her mutant son during each everybody shows what they are deep down inside. Elec Worley throws a curveball here but it’s not much of a curve, not is it particularly to the themes of the serial (and also raises the question how the sharped-nosed Red failed to notice this before).Continued below
The big idea in the heart of “Born Bad” is whether Durham Red, or anybody for that matter, is able to tranced their baser instincts; the problem is that this the type of a question that been asked by many a vampire stories and this one doesn’t seem to add a lot to the formula – maybe there’s something there that feels more relevant to long-time fans of the character but as far as I’m concerned this is just same old same old. It’s not so much that story is bad, it simply fails to excite.
The art is something else – Lee Carter jumped in halfway through and despite my fears he is phenomenal. There’s one particularly great moment when script and art seem to click together perfectly as the page shifts into full-red. It’s just such a strong visual, and preformed with just the right tone of horror and bloodshed thati t makes me want to read more of Lee Carter’s stuff as fast as possible.
The most interesting thing here is not so much how the story ends but the way it ties itself to recently resurrected “Strontium Dog” strip. Whether this is simply a nod from the creators or the start of something bigger in the coming year I can’t say- but I’ll be keeping my eyes open.