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: Machine Law, Part Six
Credits: John Wagner (script), Colin MacNeil (art), Chris Blythe (colors), Annie Parkhouse (letters)
Rowan Grover: Threads come together in part six of “Machine Law”, where we finally see the march against robots take place. There’s an unsettling sense throughout the whole issue as we see reporters talking to marchers, who speak uncannily like real-life bigots in true 2000 AD satirical style. Wagner pens a touching moment between Dredd and Hershey too, especially as Dredd threatens Hershey’s giving into her illness with an insubordination charge. Getting back to the political side, we see an undercover meeting of the old Council of Five, as they all voice their disapproval of Logan’s Machine Law. It’s terrifying, but it’s a little hard to follow as so many characters are voicing the same opinion, essentially finishing each other’s sentences. Everything comes to a climax in spectacular suspense, as Wagner writes the unwavering Logan standing proudly next to Harvey above the marchers, unmoved even by the frightening addition of rogue Judges to their ranks.
There’s a lot of fun settings and scenes MacNeil gets to work with here, giving the visuals a fun and dynamic tone. We get a beautiful dawn scene on Mega-City One as the sun gleams dreamily through the buildings, colors courtesy of Chris Blythe, but the way MacNeil works with shadows here gives the setting a very ethereal feel, contrasting the darker shifts going on in the city below. We get to see some powerful visual storytelling as Harvey catches someone tagging “NO MACHINE LAW” on the side of a building, pausing for a heavy, important before stunning her from her position. MacNeil’s signature use of silhouettes is a little overkill here, however, especially in Council of Five scenes where it’s hard to determine who is speaking at any given time. I also love Blythe’s use of starting with an unsettlingly pleasant daytime blue for the sky that slowly grows pale before descending into a darker shade of night, suggesting the start of a great struggle.
This is the chapter of “Machine Law” that we’ve been waiting for, where the floodgates have finally begun to spill. Threads begin to meet, with great character interactions, and some superb visual storytelling that needs no dialogue to affect the reader.
Skip Tracer: Louder than Bombs, Part 10
Credits: James Peaty (script), Paul Marshall (art), Quinton Winter (colors), Ellie De Ville (letters).
Tom Shapira: getting ever closer to the denouement as Nolan and Mote just barely get the evidence of corporate-sanctioned mass murder, only for Nolan to decide that getting the truth out is one thing, but some good ol’ fashioned payback is quite another.
My main issue with this chapter is that rebel group that has been built-up throughout this serial, especially their mysterious charismatic leader, appear only to get shoved out of the way immediately. Not only are their deaths meaningless, we get little emotional kick, it rather makes the whole arc around them pointless; Nolan could have come across the evidence by himself, which makes large chunks of “Louder than Bombs” feel retroactively like filler.
The biggest problem of the story remains Nolan Blake himself though; as the series draws to a close I still have little reading on him beyond the surface. He’s angry at the company for setting him up, and for their greater injustices, but there is nothing that ties him particularly, as a character, to event taking place.; you could’ve switched him with dozen other SF protagonists, some of whom from the very pages of this magazine, and you wouldn’t feel much difference.
Even his psychic powers, the thing that meant to make him stand out in this world, are used mostly for plot convenience. Compare with Judge Anderson, her psychic powers are used to make her a figure capable of rare empathy in a callous world and thus are useful beyond simple plot mechanics.Continued below
Art-wise this strip continues to be strong if unimpressive. The storytelling is fine and the characters never get lost in the shuffle of this world, but there is very little of interest on the page itself. “Skip Tracer” is not a bad story, but it is not a particularly good one.
“Tharg’s 3Rillers Presents: Tooth & Nail Part 1”
Credits: Andi Ewington (script), Staz Johnson(art), Abigail Bulmer (colors), Simon Bowland (letters)
Greg Lincoln: A strip that starts out with a torture scene cant be headed anywhere nice. Unsavory types punching out a man tied to a chair, it’s not hard to see who we might want to root for in this scenario. Andi Ewington’s script is one of those being told, for the most part, out of order. It’s an effective storytelling tool and one he uses pretty well in his introduction to this film noir style crime story. Ewington uses the emotional hook of a dog, one he even threatens to get the story really moving. It’s a bit unfair both to the poor patsy that Nail is using and to us the readers, but it’s none the less fully effective in both cases. As the introduction ends showing us the men that Nail is obviously there to kill the real question left to us readers is what other things happened in our viewpoint characters day that had already made it the worst in his life. We know there has to be something weird or supernatural about the dog or something. Ewington is clever in his set up. His story needs no big info dump, everything you need to know is just there.
The green grey and nearly dingy color palate Abigail Bulmer chose to use sets a very appropriate tone for the story, her only use of any other color is in the “present” and even the its only bright by comparison. Staz Johnson’s art tells us everything we really need to joke about the setting and cast. It’s a very modern looking setting in any city somewhere and the narrator is surrounded by sociopathsand thugs, and he is not doing well by the look of him even before the assassin Nail appears in his life.
Jaegir: Bonegrinder, Part 4
Credits: Gordon Rennie (script), Simon Coleby (art), Len O’Grady (colors), Annie Parkhouse (letters)
Kent Falkenberg: It’s a busy one for Kapiten-Inspector Atalia Jaegir this week. Hectic, you could say. Lighting up the front lines. Negotiating the conditional surrender of herself and those under her command. Tagging the underbelly of enemy tanks with remote explosives and then hauling ass out of the blast radius. All in a days work
‘Bonegrinder, Part 4’ demonstrates Gordon Rennie and Simon Coleby’s precision balance of strategic intrigue and future military bombast. Under the control of other creators, the scene might have played out as ridiculous. But Rennie has laid the ground work for just how formidable Jaegir can be as both a negotiator and as a trigger. As such, it doesn’t strain credulity too much that she might be able to juggle both roles at the same time. And Rennie peppers in a couple choice details here and there – her being out of breath, comms difficulties, live rounds firing in the background – to make it believable within the context of the story.
And as for the bombast, well, Coleby’s more than proven his ability to deliver bomb blasts with aplomb. Where other strips might relegate this sort of negotiation to talking heads, ‘Bonegrinder, Part 4’ balances it out with the frenzied maneuvers of ground troopers versus tanks. Coleby structures his panels so that these vehicles dwarf the people in front of them. When they explode, limp bodies flail into the air through noxious plumes of flame and muck and metal debris.
‘Bonegrinder, Part 4’ is a fantastic strip. It’s easily the highlight of Rennie and Coleby’s work so far in this arc.