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: Trial by Fire
Credits Rory McConville (script), P J Holden (art), Jim Boswell (colors), Annie Parkhouse (letters)
Greg Lincoln: ‘Trial by Fire’ comes off well as a humorous one-shot, it’s a colorful, loud and bombastic scifi satire. However on the heels of the heavy, politically weighted story, ‘The Small House,’ it’s hard see it more then just bit if filler. Taken on its own though, Rory McConville’s script is punchy and well conceived. He hits us with the quick set up of the Justice Departments medical trials and one cit’s scheme to live off that system before he literally bursts into a bunch of ill tempered emotions intent on mayhem. It’s a descent social commentary along the lines of Black Mirror or Twilight Zone and much of the poor involves Dredd attempting to clean up the mess. The high point is the arrival of Judge Kirby and her tech team as backup. There is a kind of Doctor Who quality to her dialogue and swagger. She steals the show from Dredd and leaves the story far too fast. McConville gives a predictably “Dredd-ish” ending serving the “cit” a “sentence” and a bill with the crotchety “old man” suggestion to “get a job.” What really works is the natural dialogue despite the technobabble. Dredd and Kirby obviously know each other and made no clumsy, ham handed attempts to explain themselves to the readers.
Holden and Boswell’s art is bright, colorful and pleasantly goofy looking. Their style has a bit of a “Mad Magazine” satire kind of vibe and works well given the tone and level of action in McConville’s script. Visually the highpoint of the some shot is the appearance of the white clad tech Judge Kirby, it’s likely because she’s given the most noticeable personality in the story other then the unfortunate victim of the drug trial. In keeping with McConville’s light tone the likely disturbing image of missing body parts is left for the imagination in the final panels.
Brink: High Society Part 11
Credits Dan Abnett (scrip) Inj Culbard (art) Simon Bowland (letters)
Michael Mazzacane: It is nice to see that this strip can continue to surprise. Last week everything was held in a single room. This week Culbard and Abnett run parallel stories as Sinta finds herself in prison and her contact finds herself dead. Running these two threads side by side is an effective change as Sinta tries to work Balsco into being a larger source while another one dries up.
Everything starts though in a prison cell, which is a bit of an odd environment for Culbard to design. For starters the prison cell looks pretty much like you’d expect a prison cell to look. A box of iron bars arranged vertically with a couple of horizontal ones for structure. The vertical lines are a huge step away from the modernist design aesthetic Culbard has been using, everything was smooth with horizontal accents. In the cell, everything is hard and due to the monocolor lacks the accents. All those lines also must’ve been a pain to draw an keep straight.
The setting does make for some nice framing of Sinta and Balsco’s tete-e-tete, no matter where you look they’re trapped. Even Sinta’s offer of immunity leaves him open and trapped in other ways.
Running the B-plot, the investigation into Vault 18, physically next to the A-plot gives the page design a nice mirrored quality. They’re opposites environmentally, one person is confined while the other is free to move around. One can’t escape the other is trying to break in. Artistically Culbard further differentiates the two by lighting them at opposite ends of the spectrum. Everything is clear and pristine for Sinta, while the opposite holds true for the B-plot. The light radiation of the red hand scanner barely illuminates anything.Continued below
The final page, the final two panels are an excellent send off. As Balsco’s confessional offers up a fitting thematic commentary for what is going on in the B-plot. The eleventh entry in “Brink” breaks from structure in a lot of ways but sticks to its core even as it tries to do new and different things.
Kingdom: Alpha and Omega, Part 11
Credits: Dan Abnett (script), Richard Elson (art), Abigail Bulmer (colours), Ellie de Ville (letters)
Kent Falkenberg: While Gene the Hackman ultimately looms largest over the long-running story that Dan Abnett and Richard Elson have been telling, there always has been a focus on the wider, wilder world. ‘Alpha and Omega, Part 11’ acknowledges this fact by having Gene, Lee Sower and Pause Who Walks Alone recede out into the distant edges of the forests of Patagone all within the first panel. We never even see their faces. But lest anyone believe these people are due for brighter horizons, Abnett’s narration reminds us that their future remains, “Scrappy ever after.”
Instead of the Hackman and his compatriots, ‘Alpha and Omega, Part 11’ focus on the chaos and ever-changing nature of the Kingdom. Elson shows us a few, fierce and blisteringly constructed panels of Numan – as he’s usurped the role of leader of the Them-Riders. And while the jagged quality within these panels lends a touch of feral menace to a once seemingly passive character, he’s not long for this role either. The Them-pack is quickly mowed by the spears and arrows of a new threat. It’s a propulsive sequence, and Elson angles his panels somewhat as if to match the lethal, arcing trajectory of these weapons.
Earlier in the arc, Abnett touched on the idea of hyper-evolution. At the time it straddled the line between enigmatic mystique and sci-fi sillines. But as ‘Alpha and Omega, Part 11’ closes out, we finally see ans example of what he meant. Elson uses full panel spread judiciously, but here he uses one to great effect. The new hyper-evolved enemy is indeed a threat that will loom larger over the story than anyone or anything we’ve met already.
Abnett and Elson throw a slight curve in this closing installment. But by focusing on the Kingdom itself and not on Gene, they have ensured there’s much, much more story left to tell.
Sinister Dexter: The Sea Beneath The City, Part Two
Credits: Dan Abnett (script), Steve Yeowell (art), John Charles (Colors), Ellie De Ville (letters)
Rowan Grover: Abnett brings this short tale of Sinister and Dexter to a close with light-hearted hilarity and some solid spy action. Having split the two into separate groups, it’s fun to see how the two act out on their own, Abnett has Sinister playing the bait, acting very placid and seeming to go with whatever Wharfinger and his crew have schemed up. Dexter, meanwhile, takes hilarious action, finding some hard-done-by workers of Wharfinger and encouraging them to unionize and parade against their unfair, evil overlords. It’s clever and witty commentary, serving as a neat plot device to take out the story antagonists, with even Fanny claiming agency and knocking out her imposter with a crowbar. Having Sinister finally dispose of Wharfinger with his own giant caged sea-monster too? Abnett provides a satisfying and hilarious ending to a solid two-parter.
Yeowell provides more of the classic style, pulpy art that lends brilliantly to the campy spy action of “Sinister Dexter”. Cleverly, the story opens with a whole lot of real estate devoted to the Sea Monster, setting him up for a bigger role later in the story, and at the same time, Yeowell can render a villainous, underwater base like it’s nobody’s business. Despite this, however, my favorite sequence occurs when the two workers are talking together on canoes in the sewer. Yeowell nails their dismissive and would-rather-be-somewhere-else body language, having one of the workers acting consistently with a stiff upper lip and slackened demeanor. Charles’ colors feel more classical here, but honestly feel too realistic and gritty on some level. Considering the overall tone of this story is a witty yet campy spy story, it would have been fun to have the coloring adopt a candy-colored or rose-tinted palette. Nonetheless, Charles’ style gives a painterly expression that lends drama to the canoe bound workers and gravitas to the sea-monster consuming Wharfinger.Continued below
“Sinister Dexter” continues to be the solid and entertaining fill-in project that Abnett handles brilliantly. With Yeowell on art, we get the overall tone feeling much more classical, and though Charles’ colors aren’t necessarily evocative of that campiness, it’s still accurately gritty and beautiful to look at.