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 Long Game, Part Two
Credits: Michael Carroll (script), Mark Sexton (art), John Charles (colors), Annie Parkhouse (letters)
Rowan Grover: This chapter is a lot less intriguing and a lot more plodding than the debut of “The Long Game”. A lot of this is worldbuilding for this weird, underground gang segment of Mega-City One. Carroll introduces a lot of big names and granted, some of them are quite interesting, but they make it hard for the reader to see the focus of the story. The latecomer Doctor Bryce who sports glasses and a tight leather piece ripped straight from The Matrix is the most interesting, feeling like the most authoritative in the mafia group. Our protagonist from the last issue, Sage, provides some narration but feels a lot more part of the crowd in this issue, making it hard to determine who exactly is the supposed to be the focal point of the issue. There’s an interesting case about Dredd and four other judges carrying sniper rifles to a firefight, but it gets buried somewhat under all the busy dialogue.
Mark Sexton, regardless of the story, gives us a super pretty looking chapter here with more slick design work. As mentioned above, Doctor Bryce is one of the most striking. Her slicked back hairstyle, shining leather waistcoat and constant frown makes her one of the most intriguing characters just on visuals. I love the addition of her having an assistant with no mouth – the implications there are suitably chilling. The composition is high quality too, with the opening scene looking like it could be a mid-nineties hip-hop album cover with its upwards camera angle. Sexton can also make small panels with up to ten and more characters feel spacious, and still give focus to the character talking as is the case with Markota on the second page. John Charles’ colors are a little less plastic-looking this issue, with a great colder blue palette filtered over each scene with the mafia meeting.
The plot of “The Long Game” may be a little distracted in this chapter, but the art feels tight and superbly composed. Hopefully, Carroll can give this story some more focus in the upcoming chapters, but this doesn’t do the intriguing first issue narrative justice.
Survival Geeks: Dungeons & Dating (Basic), part 5
Credits: Gordon Rennie & Emma Beeby (script), Neil Googe (art), Gary Caldwell (colors), Annie Parkhouse (letters).
Tom Shapira: This story ends not with a bang, nor with a whimper; it just sort-of does – with little gained and little learned (I guess in that it is an accurate representation of most role playing campaigns). The problem with “Survival Geeks” continues to be that the characters are too thin to support anything but broadest of jokes; which would be fine if the strip was really funny (or at least trying to be), but here it looks like the script just sort-of gestures at the general direction of ‘comedy’ rather than making a full attempt at it. which is quite a shame because Neil Googe and Gary Caldwell are definitely game for whatever the story throws at them, I just end-up wishing it’d a throw a little more and a lot harder. Sam and Simon’s relation should provide some emotional core to supplement the dryer bits but the comics just fails to make invested in them in any way; she probably should leave him, on the double if possible.
There’s some promise with the ending, which seems to set-up an adventure in a completely different genre which would force the “Survival Geeks” crew (in and out of the story) to stretch their wings a bit. But the fact remains that even after this rather short five-parter I already feel like a need a break from the characters and the setting.Continued below
Scarlet Traces: Home Front Part 2
Credits Ian Edginton(scrip) D’Israel (art) Ellie De Ville (letters)
Michael Mazzacane: In some strips, the creative team use the time in between strips to skip ahead and pick up at a later point. Not “Scarlet Traces” as we start pretty much right after the previous strip ended in space staring down the Martian armada. D’Israel understandably goes “big” in this strip as the Martian ships are gigantic 40k-esque designs. That size feels like it isn’t to the strips benefit.
There isn’t much to the core plot of this strip: the invasion forces arrive, Earth defense forces attempt an assault, it fails. That simplicity isn’t a bad thing, but with the large panel size, averaging about 5 a page, everything gets wrapped up very quickly. It made me do a double take on if there was a splash page – there wasn’t one. I think I spent more time trying to understand the accent of the first space pilot than anything else in the strip. All of this makes it a very quick read in a way I haven’t really run into in other “2000 AD” strips.
D’Israel’s large ship design and use of space is effective, I just wanted more. With all that scale it was hard to keep track of where the ship we follow is in relation to other objects as the strip jumps between various geographic locations. That lack of humanity is the opposite of the previous strip, which ins’t a bad thing but worth noting. Their design work continues to play in that mid twentieth century sci-fi and melodramatic mold to great effect. The use of talking heads and the anguished expression as one of the commanders gives a “we had to try speech” is well done.
“Scarlet Traces” left me wanting more in their second strip, but not in a fully satisfying sense.
Max Normal: How the Max Got His Stripes, Part 4
Credits: Guy Adams (script), Dan Cornwall (art), Jim Boswell (colours), Simon Bowland (letters)
Kent Falkenberg: The swing is the thing – and really, that’s where Guy Adams and Dan Cornwall are at. After three weeks swaggering around the edges of this story, it finally feels as though Max has settled into a groove.
In “How Max Got His Stripes, Part 4,” Adams and Cornwall have blended everything they’ve been trying so far. That’s not to say that the previous installments slingshot from one genre to another. It’s more like they found three distinct variations on the flavor they’re cooking with. This week, they brought it all together. The melancholic ruminations on a glorious past, the generational rifts, the madcap rivalry between these generations, and wistful look at the genesis of cool. Adams deftly weaves these threads around each, while Cornwall’s artistic verve helps to provide the connective tissue. A champagne bottle of deadly acid , courtesy of the toddling-punk gangsters, explodes over a mirror. What Max sees in this reflection ties directly back to some art he had seen as a lad, inching towards the tipping point to pinstriped glory.
And while the balancing act is nice, one can’t escape the expectation of something more within the story. Adam’s writing is smooth. Cornwall’s art is clean and expressive. But nothing in the story itself seems to pop like the aforementioned bottle of bubbly. It’s unfortunate because there is some madcap, lunatic fun that exists on the periphery. And Adam’s clearly has larger points he’s hinting at – “That’s what art’s for,” Max hears in the flashback,”It’s sugar in a bitter coffee.”
Unfortunately, in “How The Max Got His Stripes, Part 4” the flavors are all fighting a bit too much for prominence for any one of them to really land.
Kingmaker: Oroborous Part 5
Credits: Ian Edginton(script), Leigh Gallagher (art), Ellie De Ville (letters)
Greg Lincoln: ‘Oroborous’ Part 5 continues to prove that the middle chapter of a story can succeed in being as gripping as its high points. Ian Edginton has surprises in store for his heroes as it becomes apparent that the wizard Abelard perhaps doesn’t know the whole story. This part is one for all those people who have been on a dungeon crap in an RPG. While it’s revealed that the Thorn can pinpoint the location of our heroes because of the power “helping” Crixus we get to see the odd trip delve into the place where the last of the Stone People may in fact reside. We all get a nasty surprise as various green folk, goblins orks troll and worse apparently are lurking there instead. I suspect that next week the resolution of this cliffhanger will be not exactly what you might expect but it was rather well played by Edginton.Continued below
Leigh Gallagher’s pages are pretty glorious showing his lovely attention to detail and unique vision and style in design. He makes the exploration of the tunnels beneath the mountain tight and claustrophobic in the way he packs the page with a lack of color and just enough details to tell the tale. He uses a page of white background as effectively as pages drowned in darkness. We get a lot of feeling out of the faces he chooses to show and you can practically hear the sounds the pack on the final splash page make as they fall on Crixus, Yarrow and Ablard. Not much happened in this week but it felt packed with punch.