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: Block Buds, Part One
Credits: Kenneth Niemand (script), Jeff Anderson (art), Annie Parkhouse (letters)
Rowan Grover: Kenneth Niemand writes giant artificial pre-teens squaring off in a city-wide Kaiju-style fight in the latest “Judge Dredd” story. Let me explain. The latest Megacity plan to minimize crime includes having giant mascots for each city block that encourages them to do better, and reports them to the judges if they don’t. Niemand cleverly skips over tension with the judges, having Dredd make an offhand, yet still very in-character comment by the way of “LONG AS THESE CREEPS ARE DOING CUBE-TIME, THEY CAN GIVE [CREDIT] TO TWO-TON TONY TUBBS FAR AS I CARE.”. Niemand develops conflict between the Block Buds when one block rails on their Bud Buck, for ratting out a civ, so the rational thought process Buck decides to take is hilariously to start a fight with the other city blocks. It’s a clever, succint, yet bizarre setup and I’m all in to see how Dredd figures this one out.
Jeff Anderson handles the entire art process here, and uses a style that relies perhaps a little too heavily on airbrushes. It works for rendering the Block Buds as it makes them look overstylized and cartoonish. However, when trying to contrast the rest of the page with these giant children, Anderson goes too heavy into detail and makes it look like an old-timey carnival artwork. There are still a lot of solid moments in here, however. The first page contrasts the two tones very well by using a heavier, darker color palette surrounding the primary-colored Block Bud. When Dredd confronts Migz in a shootoff, Anderson makes the figures super fluid as they duck and dive through the cityscape trying to off each other. It’s solid action work, but feels a little overdone at times.
Niemand brings a hilariously bizarre concept to the table in “Judge Dredd: Block Buds” and somehow makes it genuinely work. Jeff Anderson on art relies a little too heavily on an airbrushed style, but still uses cartoonish contrast well to exaggerate the Block Buds and deal out some smooth action sequences.
Brink: High Society Part 13
Credits Dan Abnett (scrip) Inj Culbard (art) Simon Bowland (letters)
Michael Mazzacane: One of the real pleasures reading these strips is how often an effective almost certain death cliffhanger is established, only for the situation to be resolved quickly in the following strip. The pattern holds true for “Brink” as it enters its thirteenth strip. In the previous strip it seemed all was loss as everyone stared down Croker’s gun. How that situation is resolved isn’t cheap, it is sudden and violent, but not cheap. It plays into the foundation of ‘High Society,’ nobody thinks of the help! It’s also a sequence that gives us perhaps the happiest, genuine, moment of reunion we’re going to get in this strip.
Once again Culbard’s color palette is wonderful. In this strip it’s how he contrasts the lively space of Tillerson’s office with the cold departed feeling found in the Old Man’s office. The light slowly drifting in from the outside as they enter the office space makes for a beautiful panel. The overwhelming blue is soon contrasted with the ominous red coming from the secret family passage way. As Sinta and Gentry get ready to enter the passage way, Culbard makes an interesting and effective choice. Throughout the series he has dropped background environment, or modeled environments in such away, to give everything a plain single tone backer. Here that technique is done in diegetically as there is nothing but pitch black in front of them. The pure black and the light red highlights emanating from a console give things a proper spooky vibe as they face the unknown.
Overall this strip is one that’s clearly working through the plot and pushing things along. Culbard’s technique though gives things just enough that it isn’t poor, and after the rollercoaster ride of the past month or so it’s nice to catch a breath before things inevitably get weirder again.Continued below
Skip Tracer: Louder than Bombs, Part 3
Credits: James Peaty (script), Paul Marshall (art), Dylan Teague (colors), Ellie De Ville (letters).
Tom Shapira: The actual plot of this serial emerges as Nolan Blake finds himself roped, Suicide Squad-style, to track down the terrorists for the Consociation; whether he wants to or not (spoiler – he does not). It’s nice to see the story moving forward but the main problem to strip remains unfixed: Nolan Blake is just not very interesting. He’s a generic grizzled tough guy, at least he doesn’t have a five o’clock shadow, in everything from mannerism to design he’s just not very arresting.
There’s hints of interest in this strip: I rather dig the design of the bouncer who looks like a devil in suit, and there is something to the oppressive-without-being-overt-about-it atmosphere of of the Cube that’s just the right bland of sinister and normal. Paul Marshall and Dylan Teague are old hands at this point, but it doesn’t feel as if the script challenges them to stretch their craft at any point: Nolan psychic powers should be a boon for an art team to play with, just think of the eccentric nature of the “Judge Anderson” strip and how it uses telepathy to go bonkers, but here we just get some glowing eyes. it’s well-made story, but never more than that.
Tharg’s 3Rillers Presents: The Scorch Zone Part 2
Credits: Eddie Robson (script), Nick Brokenshore (art), Gary Caldwell (colors), Ellie De Ville (letters)
Greg Lincoln: In act two of ‘The Scorch Zone,’ things escalate very quickly as the Twilight Zone-like tale drifts into Day of the Dead territory. The U.N. Tech team take refuge in a conveniently located hospital, one largely intact and miraculously un-looted. We discover that the medial tech in this setting approaches Star Trek levels of scanning sophistication when they find a fingernail embedded in one of the team member’s wound. Things quickly go from bad to worse as Walter, the wounded man, shows signs of being infected from and needs out of his coolant suit. They are heat zombies and the one that infected him has apparently been one for around nine years. Eddie Robson throws tantalizing hints of more of this world’s history with references to the “Resource Wars,” and lets us learn the names of more of the team including the member they lost to the zombies. As it’s only a three part story, you can forgive the speed with which they discover the virus.
Nick Brokenshire and Gary Caldwell created a couple of very effective pages in this second act. Caldwell’s use of shadow amped up the tension in then scenes quite well. The truly impactful choice was the decision to expand the scenes of the infected entering the previously secured hospital from panels to the edges of the page and into the gutters. It made their presence and the implied threat of it palpable despite the familiarity of scenes like this in horror comics and films.
Fiends of the Western Front, Part 3
Credits: Gordon Rennie (script), Tiernan Trevallion (art), Annie Parkhouse (letters)
Kent Falkenberg: “Now, let us talk of pain,” one character says to another halfway through the macabre dance that is ‘Fiends of the Western Front, Part 3.’ And pain, in all is viscerally, vivid detail is on full display this week courtesy of Gordon Rennie and Tiernan Trevallion.
That same character spends the bulk of the strip with his skin sloughed off in a delectably gory fashion. Trevallion plays to the benefit of the black-and-white format by luxuriating in the details of all that exposed musculature, sinewy and ligament without it ever coming across as overly gross. It’s grotesque in the compellingly Gothic tradition. Honestly, if this work is any indication, Trevallion could slip seamlessly into the waters of the Mignolaverse. And if he’s not planning on jumping ship any time soon, then we’re all the luckier for it – as long as these vampires and creatures of the night keeping thrashing and tearing at one another.
Storywise, Rennie’s script is light on the mythology and heavy on the ultraviolence. Chemical warfare is given a new twist as the winged, King Bats saturate bomb enemy trenches with enough transformative agent to turn all the soldiers on the frontlines into slaved beasts. Elsewhere, heads are ripped off. Machine gun lead is shown to be far less effective a weapon than silver of any kind.Continued below
“Fiends of the Western Front, Part 3” may not push the story ahead much further. But as a single installment, it’s a frightful, delightful thrill.