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 Small House Part 7
Credits Rob Williams (script), Henry Flint (art), Chris Blythe (colors), Annie Parkhouse (letters)
Greg Lincoln: When something big or significant happens in “Judge Dredd” it rarely does it with any fanfare or hype. A few ago the ‘Trifecta’ storyline featured a dovetailing or crossover of several Dredd-verse stories after weeks of separate tales. This week we had a major change in the relationship between Dredd and one of the longest running background characters Judge, now Chief Judge, Hershey. The tension in their relationship has been alluded to since the chat Dredd had with Judge Smiley in chapter 2 of this arc and things came to a head this week. Only time will tell if this week’s big un-hyped-moment will cause lasting change but Joseph Dredd telling his longest ally and friend “I no longer recognize your authority” for sure will be hard to walk back. It’s not the only time Dredd has been at odds with the Chief Judge but this is not just any Judge. It’s also not the only big thing that was revealed, Rob Williams also makes it very clear that Judge Frank, aka Dirty Frank, is much more along the lines of the Manchurian Candidate then a full on traitor.
Henry Flint and Chris Blythe are totally on their game artistically. There are a lot of key emotional moments in this weeks story and they manage to deliver the right punch in the gut to go along with them. The opening page hits you with Dirty Frank’s horror with the realization of his action in the way they conceived the scene. They get you again with the scene of Sam’s death but the real moment comes with Dredd’s confrontation with Hershey. They capture the shock and hurt in her face and eyes that stays with you. These characters have been allies for near 40 years in the comic and that shocked carries the weight of years.
Skip Tracer: Legion, Part Seven
Credits: James Peaty (script) Colin MacNeil (art), Dylan Teague (Colors) Ellie De Ville (letters)
Rowan Grover: We get revelations and a much more militant and violent Nolan than ever in the latest “Skip Tracer” chapter. James turns up Nolan’s attitude to eleven here, and while it’s certainly with justification, it feels a little out of character. The character that once had psychic dreams about his drunken father and made playful digs in the first chapter now stands towering over the major holding him by the collar, and demanding information while raw energy crackles from his eyes. However, I love the coup-de-grace from Hastings, switching from holding Nolan at gunpoint to the general, giving the reader good reason to find out more about Legion. Peaty delivers a slightly contrived but nonetheless interesting revelation that Legion is an ancient being who takes over worlds through mass possession, and then delivers the satisfying twist ending of having Legion do so in the present. It’s by no means groundbreaking or unpredictable, but it’s solid and enjoyable sci-fi storytelling.
MacNeil delivers some of his most expressive, subtle and stylized work here. From the first page, we get a good sense of how ink heavy this chapter is going to be, and it does a lot to set up the sinister tone and outlook of Nolan as a character. The majority of what we see from this character is a pair of glowing eyes and a set of angry pearly whites offset against a dark silhouette, looking appropriately creepy and dark. Additionally, I love the work on the Legion backstory sequence. The spiralling, radial landscape that encompasses the page gives a very claustrophobic tone to the page, adding to the terror of the stark, corrupted spire containing Legion. Teague does some great work with flashes of reds set against the stark turquoise palette of the entire issue, especially when highlighting the haunting cave painting of Legion.Continued below
“Skip Tracer” is proving to be a little by the books in terms of sci-fi storytelling, but Peaty still ensures this is entertaining, with rich, moody artwork provided by MacNeil and Teague.
Brink: High Society Part 7
Credits Dan Abnett (scrip) Inj Culbard (art) Simon Bowland (letters)
Michael Mazzacane: The purposefully awkward conversation between Tillerson and Sinta continues in this strip. With much of the groundwork already laid, Abnett and Culbard are able to quickly run through the patterns of the previous strip and still keep things fresh. The patronizing comment about Sinta knowing the word “microexpressions” plays like gangbusters. It sounds patronizing because it is. Culbard doesn’t play around with form to heighten things this time around, if anything their conversation is played more relaxed, conventional, and straight. When it is anything but. You’d think that would mean Culbard drew things with more relaxed and with varied expressions. Tillerson certainly gets them , but he’s the rich eccentric dude. Sinta is more stone faced, in a good way. Her facial expressions are relatively unchanging but that’s a byproduct to cartooning her character sheet. Culbard minimalist approach gives her a unibrow appearance which limits things since we traditionally look at the eyes for expression. He gets a lot of expressive work out of how he has her tilt her head and draws her mouth, it’s subtle but effective stuff.
I’m slightly torn on the composition of the last two pages of the strip. The penultimate page is a mixture of finishing off the meeting and showing Sinta under surveillance, splitting the page in two. There’s a nice transition from green to black in the gutters to help guide things, but the overwhelming clash between orange and pink in the panels themselves doesn’t really work. The soft orange and saturated pink clash because of the disparity in value. Using the pink to code Croker’s surveillance in, makes sense, and is effective in the following page – which plays out as a sorta mini voyeurism montage. There is just a good amount of friction between the macro and micro presentation choices in those two pages that gets in the way.
There isn’t a good place to put this, however, the introduction of Mrs. Sylvie is excellent. Just a little tag of a panel in the middle of the page, as the character walks through those pesky virtual walls. It’s good prep for the spying that is to come, and reminder that somebody is always watching. But the thing that puts it over the top is the pure imagery, she is halfway through the wall and looks kinda like a stern alien fish.
Tharg’s 3Rillers: Infestinauts are Go, Part 1
Credits: Arthur Wyatt (script), Pye Parr (art), Pye Parr (letters).
Tom Shapira: small soldiers for a small war! I don’t know why but I like the concept of miniaturized warfare, from “Osmosis Jones” to 2000AD’s own “Banzai Battalion” – possibly there’s something inherently comedic in taking the overblown, masculine, values of violent combat and cutting them down to size or because it allows the artists to be creative in presenting new battlefields.
The new “Tharg 3Rillers” (a three-part science fiction story) serial plays well with both of these aspects: Arthur Wyatt gives us some overblown war-movie inspired dialogue (“Standard search and destroy mission…. Lock and load!”) and a fun setting in which nano-machines sometimes must make battle with strange alien diseases. So far we are seem to be in rather familiar take on that story, but there’s enough of a promise here to make the next part more interesting.
But the real star here is artist and letterer Pye Parr, who I don’t think I’ve seen in action before, who brings a certain Henry Flint-inspired sense of design and madness to the proceedings – funny, but without losing track on the action. I like everything here, from the pulsating body-backgrounds, to the mini-mechas our small soldiers use to the invading bacteria; it’s the type of story that leans heavily on the art and from this chapter it seems like Parr can take the weight.
It’s a fun an energetic start to what will hopefully a good shot of thrill-power.Continued below
Kingdom: Alpha and Omega, Part 7
Credits: Dan Abnett (script), Richard Elson (art), Abigail Bulmer (colours), Ellie de Ville (letters)
Kent Falkenberg: Despite a particularly successful and succulent Them-hunt, Gene remains somewhat paralyzed by introspection and inactivity in “Alpha and Omega, Part 7.” This time around it’s Pause who carries himself as a decidedly manipulative man of action – well, Aux of action.
Dan Abnett finally pulls this storyline’s other bad-ass Aux out of his back pocket, and back into the main narrative thrust. Richard Elson crafts an intuitive re-introduction to the character, as the first panel to show pause is a narrow slit of a panel overlaid atop one showing a far larger scope. It’s a clever effect that implies he’s sneaking out from the shadows to take a more central focus in the forefront of the story.
Pause’s grand scheme is to pit the two groups of enemies against one another, while he swoops in for Gene in the resultant chaos. And while this is a clever way to point all the major antagonists towards a bloody convergence, it also helps to align Pause much closer to Gene thematically. “I don’t want else having them,” he says, once his con to obtain Gene’s genetic kill-codes falls into motion. “Not Aux. Not Masters. Not Them. Not Ticks.” It’s a sentiment that closely mirrors one that Gene himself uttered last week.
“Alpha and Omega, Part 7” sees Abnett and Elson starting to draw together tight the net they cast wide through the introductory chapters of this arc. As they all come