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 10
Credits Rob Williams (script), Henry Flint (art), Chris Blythe (colors), Annie Parkhouse (letters)
Greg Lincoln: Part 10 brings ‘The Small House’ to an end and it does so with only a small few hiccups. There are moments in this part that really work, both the script and that art carries and emotional punch. Judge Maitland’s face off with Smiley where she confronts him over the assassination of Sam, who she calls “…the beat of us…” in comparison to whatever he is was dramatic and beautifully executed by Henry Flint and Chris Blythe. Gerhart’s return to the story as the linchpin in Dredd’s strategy though stretching the suspension of disbelief was so well played and drawn it’s another solid moment of the story. Rob Williams’ script though was just a bit uneven. His need to retell the 2103 story felt like it was out of place and broke the tension he had built up, and in using a few panels doing that some of the story wrap up, particularly Giant’s part in the tale, feel really rushed.
The art by Henry Flint and Chris Blythe is pretty stunning throughout. The obviously spent a large amount of time on these pages as the details in the uniforms and in the backgrounds are stunning. Blythe brings emotional impact to the story with his color choices and some of the highlights in the fight scene are well worth going back to look to. Sadly their treatment of Judge Smiley was a bit inconsistent and stood out against the quality of the rest of the art.
Nearly a year ago in ‘Fit For Purpose’ (Progs 2073-2074) Rob Williams referenced Smiley and set the pieces in place for the story that he’s now wrapped up in ‘The Small House.’ He even referenced a moment that sadly didn’t happen “on screen” in that two parter. Though a lot of this story had solid pay off the final showdown with Smiley himself felt a little to neatly tied up and final. It’s left a rift between Dredd and Hershey, but in looking back at the earlier story Dredd alluded to his lack of trust for her even then. ‘The Small House’ adds a deeper, creepier layer to one of the pivotal moments of Judge Dredd history.
Brink: High Society Part 10
Credits Dan Abnett (scrip) Inj Culbard (art) Simon Bowland (letters)
Michael Mazzacane: Things aren’t looking good for our HSD girl Davia Sinta nee Bridget Kurtis. Junto’s chief of security has got her in an offsite facility and he gets off on violence. While I’ve marveled at Inj Culbard’s environmental work and Abnett’s tight scripting, this is the first strip that is entirely in a single location. Okay. Not technically true due to a cut away but it’s just three panels. Prior strips were built around the movement between environments and how the separations between spaces were illusory at times. Not this strip, it’s just four people stuck in a room with sickly oppressive yellow lighting hanging over everything.
At the heart of the strip’s environmental storytelling is a comment that separations are not as structurally sound as they appear, thanks hologram tech. This idea is taken a step further as Croker wants to anarchically assert personal control and kill Sinta while his fellow security men try to restrain him with the rules and regulations they must follow back on site. They maybe outside interhab law “but we still have ****ing regulations.” Maybe separations aren’t hard, but they still matter.
In this confined space Culbard uses a lot of opposed perspectives to create a sense of dynamism on the page. The first page starts normal enough, pattering back and for the between head shots of Croker and Sinta before the former is able to get up and lord around the other. Emphasizing that movement is key to making this talking head strip dramatically effective. For all the attempts at dynamism and emphasizing movement, Culbard still make everything feel so cramped. Even in panels that due to how much of the body is shown it acts like a pinup or long shot you can’t help but notice size and tight framing of everything. Everything should be tight and tense, things look very bad for our lead.Continued below
Sinister Dexter: The Sea Beneath the City, Part 1
Credits: Dab Abnett (script), Steve Yeowell (art), John Charles (colors), Ellie De Ville (letters).
Tom Shapira: Everybody’s favorite future mercs are back for a story that’s both urbane and under-the-sea as the killer duo take a job that forces them into the hidden rivers and oceans beneath the city of Download. I never read much of “Sinister Dexter” – a strip here, a short story there – which shouldn’t be much of a problem as this is the beginning of a new storyline; except some this is obviously playing off previously established material that’s not best communicated here: there’s a running gag involving Dexter being aware of his own thought bubbles wich brings to mind something like Deadpool that stands in contrast to otherwise straightforward narrative of the story. Other than that Dan Abnett does his usual commendable job of quickly establishing the world and characters (Dexter is the serious one, Sinister is a bit of a comedian) before diving in, literally, to the plot.
My main issue here is less about the humor, which I assume appeals more to long-term readers, and more about the art: it is not to say that Steve Yeowell is a bad artist, far from it, but his style here is too composed and controlled, even when the story calls for things to get wild(!) he sticks for rather naturalistic reaction shots. It can all be summed up by the supposedly horrific torture that Sinister endures – after the page cuts back to him we see a figure little roughed up, but he does not appear that much worse to wear; it’s like the script pulls for one direction (madcap action-adventure) and the art for another (toned down realistic-thriller). This was an OK start but I’m really hoping the creators find a better balance as the story continues.
Kingdom: Alpha and Omega, Part 10
Credits: Dan Abnett (script), Richard Elson (art), Abigail Bulmer (colours), Ellie de Ville (letters)
Kent Falkenberg: Gene, Leezee, and Pause finally converge back on one another, in what feels like a penultimate chapter in this arc. “Alpha and Omega, Part 10” sees Dan Abnett and Richard Elson deftly bringing all their varied moving parts back into lockstep.
The big reveal this week is that the codes once thought to be in Gene’s possession never actually were – Leezee’s had them the whole time. While these codes have been a bit of a Macguffin within Abnett’s script, this turn actually works quite well in showing just how clever she can be. This makes the pairing together of her and Pause feel that much more credible, as they’ve both proven themselves to be quite adept at manipulation when it best serves their purposes. And in turn, they make more than an effective foil to the Hackman himself – who is such a straight-forward blunt instrument of immensely brutal force.
The action sees a lull in “Alpha and Omega, Part 10”, so Elson’s art isn’t quite the kinetic, visceral experience it’s been the past couple weeks. Still Elson has a skilled hand when it comes close-ups of Gene and Pause’s grimacing faces as the begrudgingly acknowledge how much they need and appreciate the other’s help. It’s falls very much out of the tough-guys-acting-tough mold. But Elson ensures the sight lines between the Aux take slightly off-kilter trajectories, and this keeps the sequence feeling dynamic.
Abnett and Elson are bringing this arc to a close. “Alpha and Omega, Part 10” definitely feels like the calm before they storm off into a furious and feral finish.