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 Booth Conspiracy Part 1
Credits T.C. Eglington (script), Staz Johnson (art), Abigail Bulmer (colors), Annie Parkhouse (letters)
Greg Lincoln: ‘The Booth Conspiracy’ is a strong beginning to a new arc that might just hit a bit too close to home for a lot of people right now. It’s all too easy to see the Sons of Booth as a Dredd world version of the rising tide of xenophobic, racist, sexist, nationalistic movements that we are seeing operating openly more and more these days. For people new to this gang, there a few clues as to their ethos starting with the one lamenting the non-nationalistic color scheme of the gel suits. In fact, T.C. Eglinton puts in lots of links to past stories in this opening chapter, implying that this might be part of a bigger story.
Eglinton also brings back the tabloid journalist Mo Malik who featured heavily in the jail breaking story. His return is a palpable reminder of the way that the press can be manipulated to adversely sway public opinion. The object of the raid they stage also calls back to an early Sons of Booth story, bringing back the Nightmare Gun that the leader Linus had hoped to use in a bigger device. Linus and his followers are proving to be very adept at causing trouble and staying out of it themselves, well at least their leaders. It’s a story full of hooks for a bigger impactful tale, but only time will tell how long this one will run.
Staz Johnson and Abigail Bulmer crafted some solid comics pages for this introduction chapter of this arc. There is little that is really flashy or stands out, but the storytelling is spot on. There is a clarity to the action even if the antagonists are a bit bland, homely, and unsympathetic. Bulmer’s coloring of their suits is reminiscent of Barney the Dinosaur, making them a little goofy looking despite the fact they are a real threat. Unlike flashier artists, they do create a real sense of place and motion.
The Order ‘The New World’ Part 9
Credits Kek-W (script) John Burns (art) Annie Parkhouse (letters)
Michael Mazzacane: You could look at the ninth part of ‘The New World’ in a couple of ways. On one hand, things could be seen as going from bad to worse, which is understandable as one of our cast members appears to die. Or how in the thick of chaos things just keep getting weirder. I’m inclined to go with the latter as Burns constructs pages shot through with sudden asides, characters grapple with letting their guard down, and the journey continues with new strange companions.
The xenomorph raiders, cast kill aside, aren’t much of a match for the Gideon robot. It’s still a chaotic affair as seen by the strips second page, a relatively simple 5 panel page that is shot through with six lines tracing either bullets or rockets. I say either because Burns has some of the lines associated with Anna’s six shooter while others just cut through the page and the Gideon reveals a rocket launcher. Still the lines are an interesting addition as it provides a sense of momentum and continuity through the panels, that also have the byproduct of shredding the panels into sub panels. The use of those lines is a really smart way to create the sense of more with less.
Everyone seems to be losing themselves in the thick of battle. Berg jr. gets a little to hangry for Anna’s liking. Letter Annie Parkhouse has a rare misstep with lettering the more monstrous side of Berg, the space between the letters isn’t enough and they just kinda jumble together in the balloons. As a means of representing the characters unhinged thirst, it works but still not the easiest to read.Continued below
Berg jr. isn’t the only one losing themselves as Clara finds herself mysteriously transported inside the Gideon against her will. It’s a brief two panels but Burns does a good job of creating the sense of horror Clara has at seeing herself through the robotic eyes of the Gideon and the feeling of isolation and incorporeality she is now experiencing. Her realization about her new body are interspersed with flashbacks that reveal a hidden connection between her and the machine.
The chaos has been a revealing experience for everyone involved as they continue their quest to the wyrm portal where hopefully cures and lost loved ones await them.
Tharg’s 3rillers Present: Appetite: Part Three
Credits: James Peaty (script), Andrea Mutti (art), Eva De La Cruz (colors) Ellie De Ville (letters)
Rowan Grover: The conclusion of this short, alien/cult tale comes to a quick and abrasive end with “Appetite” part three. However, this part is a little more riddled with cliche than the first two. Peaty does a good job with Mr Jones trying to act the hero, regardless of how clumsy and ineffective he comes off as looking. I love that he gets such a rush from seeing the Merge’s reaction when he pushes over one of their test tube vials, and he’s spurred onward to continue. Outside of this, however, everything feels a little simple. The alien hosted by Doctor Kneale is very by the books, bloodthirsty and sinister. The interior monologue from Mr Jones about always having an appetite since he was young feels forced and a little disconnected from the story. The ending is also super predictable from the start of the tale, but Peaty at least makes it visceral to make our expectations worthwhile.
Andrea Mutti does a good job as always handling the more human element of the story. We get a real sense of clumsiness and desperation from Mr Jones, who Mutti draws as really bumbling around and awkwardly confident. However, there’s a few problems with a lot of the talking characters facing away from the camera. It makes them hard to read emotionally as all we can see is the back of their heads. It’s at its worst when Kneale seems to be desperately wanting to save the specimen and when the creepy inmates try to convince Jones to stay, yet we can’t see either of their faces. De La Cruz does a great job on colors however, going full throttle on the sinister reds of the specimen room. It’s great also to see how when Jones makes it out of this room, the palette goes back to a calmer blue before slowly ramping back up through the spectrum to an aggressive red as the end draws nigh. It’s great storytelling through colors and holds up the installment majorly.
Peaty, Mutti and De La Cruz deliver a perfectly serviceable thriller tale, with a highly entertaining and bumbling lead character but unfortunately generic setting and surroundings. The ending is predictable, but it still manages to be simple and effective fun.
Mechastophales: True Faith, Part 4
Credits: Gordon Rennie & Lawrence Rennie (script), Karl Richardson (art), Simon Bowland (letters)
Kent Falkenberg: Gordon Rennie, Lawrence Rennie and Karl Richardson introduce the ruling powers of Benedictia in this week’s strip. And the appear to be every bit as sinister as the demonic hordes laying waste to the lands outside the city’s prayer-walls.
As Lord Mechastophales lumbers closer and closer to the city, demons vastly outnumber him. They’ve shredded holes into his hull and have begun their attack on those who sought sanctuary within. Karl Richardson devotes a full page to ensure we’re never in doubt as to how awesome Mechastophales’ power truly is. However, as each panel progresses, the sheer number of ghastly foes increase to an overwhelming volume.
Meanwhile, the Rennies’ script introduces the power-mongers who preside over Benedictia. And while some may come across as sniveling and corrupt, Cardinal-Commander Cesare looks to be something of a foil to Mechastophales. Clad in ornate and intimidatingly filigreed armor and crimson cloak, and threatening to drop a dissenting Cardinal from a tall balcony, there’s a severity and gravity to this man that somehow feels on the same scale as the title character.Continued below
As ‘True Faith, Part 4’ rumbles along, it’s quite apparent that this story many more chapters to go and much more blood to spill.
Grey Area: Objectives, Part 1
Credits: Dan Abnett (script), Mark Harrison (art), Ellie De Ville (letters)
Tom Shapira: One thing I am curious about regarding this ongoing “Grey Area” story is the decision to change the names to create a feeling of mini-arcs within the greater story. This is part 1 of ‘Objectives’ – despite flowing directly from the previous strip, with nary a week’s break between them and the exact same creative team. It’s an odd one.
As for the strip itself – there’s an impressive amount of story being crammed into just seven pages here, jumping between the main squad trying to non-lethally engage with a hostage situation while the black-ops squad goes in with a killing intent. The attempt to explain why the government, or whoever turns out to be behind this, is using a black-ops squad at all is still baffling: the main difference is meant to be that they are going in for the kill as a first and only resort but if this is the case it makes absolutely no sense to recruit agents against their will and throw them in the middle of a fire fight – there’s a stick, but no carrot; and thus there’s a whole lot of risk.
I trust Abnett enough, as a writer, that he’s got the whole thing figured out eventually; but seeing as how I read this thing in weekly chunks like everybody else I have nothing to do but to engage with it how it is presented.
I found Mark Harrison’s art more appropriate this time; several parts of the story take place in a stage of near-chaos and his style does seem to fit to showcase things going from bad to worse – he gives the Grey Area itself a properly broken look, somewhere the powers that be have to maintain but don’t really want to.
Not quite sure where this story is going – but I am curious to find out.