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 Two
Credits: Kenneth Niemand (script), Jeff Anderson (art), Annie Parkhouse (letters)
Rowan Grover: Niemand starts this off hilariously, having the titular Block Buds brawl it out, and their respective block denizens rooting them on like crazed sports fans in a twisted spot of social commentary. From there, the Block Buds become increasingly vulgar and slapstick in their behavior, to the point that we see not one, but two scenes of a Block Bud displaying his naked arse at the reader. If this wasn’t fur enough, you’ll notice it becomes a little overdone by the time we told that they are partaking in an act of ‘gross public indecency’. However, Niemand’s characterization of Dredd throughout this remains steadfast and enjoyable, always the straight man even when coming up with bizarre solutions to problems.
Anderson’s art is solid, but rushed, even to the point where the Block Buds, a deliberately simply designed character, stand against solid white backgrounds and feel like they were hurried to the printers. It does work in favor of the story, however, as it makes even more of a visual distinction between them and the much grittier general populace. The scenes where the block residents are having it out with each other are frenzied and packed, with Niemand giving them all distinct looks and personalities. I still have issues with the airbrushed coloring style, as it feels even more like a carnival art display, but it works well when contrasted with the flat coloring of the Block Buds.
Niemand and Anderson cap off a fairly simple yet entertaining Dredd story with “Block Buds”. The premise is bizarre, the conclusion is zany, and Niemand does a solid characterization of Dredd to counterpoint it all.
Brink: High Society Part 14
Credits Dan Abnett (scrip) Inj Culbard (art) Simon Bowland (letters)
Michael Mazzacane: In my thoughts on part twelve of “Brink” I compared a facial expression Culbard gave to Tillerson as Nic Cage-esque. As Tillerson plans to initiate his plan to make a offering of thousands of souls to his dark god, it’s a comparison that is hard to shake. Culbard goes full bananapants with Tillerson’s expressions here. Some of the anatomy is a bit off at points, mostly eyes lining up, but it is an exaggeration that works considering Abnett writes Tillerson with such lines as “To Yolot Leper heart … to those hanging in the sun, their minds burned black.” Everything clearly fits together to inform the reader like a bright a neon sign: he is coocoo for cocoa puffs.
Much of Abnett’s writing in this strip has been excellent as the strip marinated in the corporate espionage side of things. As things keep getting more and more peak, Abnett seems to be leaning into the satire of corporations as family and plain gag moments. When one of Tillerson’s family asks him if anyone is going to be hurt by the poison they’ll be venting throughout the habitat, Tillerson replies that it will only hurt them “physically.” It isn’t that this is the “funniest” strip in the series it’s that the use of humor in this particular strip, like the exaggerated Tillerson expressions, do a good job of highlighting the absurdity of everything. The comedy even gets slightly physical as the group makes a prayer circle, leading into an excellent teaser for the next strip.
Abnett and Culbard are humming on all cylinders as things are ramping up for some kind of conclusion. Everything in this strip works together to show the rising tension that will need to be released somewhere.
Skip Tracer: Louder than Bombs, Part 4
Credits: James Peaty (script), Paul Marshall (art), Dylan Teague (colors), Ellie De Ville (letters).
Tom Shapira: ah, the good old fashioned rocket-car chase; staple of every decent science fiction story (if no one roams the roads on a heavily modified bike it’s not really science fiction as far as I’m concerned – sorry Isaac Asimov). you can tell the art team is having some fun with this one, it even gets recreated on the Prog’s cover. The problem is that “Skip Tracer” picks up the steam only to let it drop quickly again; I just can’t get over the pacing of this serial – it’s not fast enough to offer the usual thrill-power overloads one craves from 2000AD but it lacks the contemplative elements that makes stuff like “The Ballad of Halo Jones” work despite the lack of action.Continued below
What is it that makes Nelson Blake tick, as a person? I know he doesn’t like this position he’s been forced through in this strip, working for the corporation as privatized terrorist hunter, but the reluctant warrior is part and parcel of this type of stories, think Snake Plissken in “Escape from New York.” But I don’t know anything about him beyond it, four chapters in I don’t really get him as an individual; nor do I get what the terrorists, the supposed antagonists of this serial, want.
“Skip Tracer” is not a bad story, but so far it’s not really a good one as well.
“Tharg’s 3Rillers Presents: The Scorch Zone Part 3”
Credits: Eddie Robson (script), Nick Brokenshore (art), Gary Caldwell (colors), Ellie De Ville (letters)
Greg Lincoln: ‘The Scorch Zone’ finale brought this eco-zombie apocalypse to a close, well pretty much. The ended oddly for a 3Riller as it implied that there is possibly more story. Eddie Robson had to resort to some sadly clumsy exposition in this part as he wanted to explain his zombie virus and its creation. He introduced the story of the discarded scientist who stayed in the ‘scorch zone’ and attempted to engineer a way for man to exist in the worlds new normal. It’s clever and I can see why he needed to include it but in the limited space it would always feel shoehorned in. E rest of the story uses the UN Technicians amazing medial analyzing machines to synthesize an antidote to the discovered virus. Though the loss of one team member after another is expected it still manages to be an entertaining story. It’s actually sad the way it ends, despite suspecting everyone would die Robson still makes their losses something you feel.
Gary Caldwell, who did such a great job of setting the mood in the first two acts with his use of a mostly cold pallet of colors seems to have gone brightly day-glow as the sun has risen. His color choices are a little garish and border on distracting. Nick Brokenshire drew a solid ending for this story though. The final panel showing the close Professor De Silva was well executed. The simple drawing of her face conveyed the losses suffered in the course of the story. And that last panel of the syringe begs the question what will come next for this version of Earth‘s Future.
Fiends of the Western Front, Part 4
Credits: Gordon Rennie (script), Tiernan Trevallion (art), Annie Parkhouse (letters)
Kent Falkenberg:Better ring the bell… Because Gordon Rennie and Teirnan Trevallion are bringing a beast battle to the forefront this week. And you’d better believe that this ruckus is raucous.
Foregoing any plot concerns, “Fiends of the Western Front, Part 4” is all about one fierce and ferocious fight. Rennie limits his script to the feral parries and thrust of two bat-winged hell-creatures. And while he’s at it, he lobs forth a number of devilishly effective Gothic cliches. Want to see these dueling Nosferatus take flight and wrestle each through showering shards of shattered stained glass window high atop a tower. Want to see a demon’s maw tearing at an enemies jugular while floating 7 stories up into the nightsky. Trevallion dives into them all with aplomb.
As has been stated in this column before – and I’ll reiterate again – this strip is truly all about Trevallion’s art. His creature design is bloodthirsty and visceral in all the right ways. And his page composition comes together masterfully, as he tilts his angle up and down in a manner that captures the intensity of the melee. Panels shift in size and shape to focus on various strikes and thrashes and trajectories of attack. It really never comes across as showy, either; it’s all in service to the fight at hand.
There might be a larger story at play. Rennie and Trevallion might have a grand mythology in place. But “Fiends of the Western Front, Part 4” keeps the conflict small. And for this week, that makes for a ripper of a strip.