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 Four
Credits: Michael Carroll (script), Mark Sexton (art), John Charles (colors), Annie Parkhouse (letters)
Rowan Grover: Michael Carroll’s “The Long Game” comes to an end in this chapter, establishing Sage as a key player for the mafia-esque faction. The structure of this chapter is somewhat staccato in nature. It feels like we are going to get a deconstructed, wild action scene from the first page, but it ends abruptly, and after that, we are in and out of Sage’s memories and interrogation. Each section feels like a little vignette of a different book, and that works to the prog’s benefit and detriment. On the one hand, it shows how versatile Carroll is with weaving in different themes at a fast pace, especially while handling Sage’s conflicted loyalties and Bryce’s no-bullshit attitude. However, each segment doesn’t get enough steam to really feel substantial. The torture session only really starts to build up steam with Rose as the torture device of sorts, before the scene shifts to a flashback, and then back again declaring the session is over. It’s jarring, but each element is certainly interesting.
Sexton absolutely kills this issue on art. The style here is interesting in how much his facial work is reminiscent of Steve Dillon, with clean lines and decidedly normal, human expressions, especially with Dredd and Sage in the flashbacks. The opening scene is one of the most eye-grabbing, however. The structure is fantastic – each character is shown as a potential threat before Rose is shown as the first to strike. Sexton really captures how fast Rose is also, showing her moving across the room to slam a fist into Sage’s jaw and knock him from the rooftop before he can even draw his gun. Charles does a pretty solid job on colors, using his more luminous lighting to great effect in the mostly black torture scene. The palette in the last scene works especially well, with an overcast of dulled, unpleasant colors to show the unease that Sage has with his new position.
Carroll delivers a scattered but interesting conclusion to “The Long Game”, setting up new characters and factions for what seems to be potential future stories. Mark Sexton and John Charles deliver kinetic, versatile art that flows super well with Carroll’s quick switching of tone, making for a visually dynamic prog.
Scarlet Traces: Home Front Part 4
Credits Ian Edginton(scrip) D’Israel (art) Ellie De Ville (letters)
Michael Mazzacane: “2000 A.D.” isn’t a straight comedy anthology, but it knows how to find its humor when it can. As our protagonists flee the invading Martian walkers, that sense of comedy is mixed with the typical bit of excessive violence and its horror. The Martians “drink” people (read: suck the blood out of them.) That’s a horrifying thought and sight thanks to D’Israel’s art. Giving everything that oppressive red tint means everything is basically two toned with a dull orange acting as a midtone. It makes for an arresting and horrifying sight as this doomed but never the less fighting soldier is eaten up. D’Israel’s art is technically fine but the addition of the color makes everything pop.
As they flee, the old woman can’t stop from taking a bit of the piss out of the situation. As her handler reacts in horror at the previous pages she shoots back with “of course it did. It’s what they do! What do they teach you in school these days?” Even as they are enveloped in blacks and reds, D’Israel finds a couple of nice panels to give her a charming smile at her own cleverness.
Of course that cleverness is a coping mechanism for the horrors she’s seen. A subject she gets into in one of the most powerful panels in this series. She opens up about how it took her twenty years and finding the love her life, an unseen woman, to begin to deal with it. Normally this is the moment that the character would be drawn looking straight ahead, D’Israel has her staying down to the side as she opens up. Everything shown in shades of sickly green. It’s powerful in how un-powerful she’s trying to act.Continued below
“Scarlet Traces” will return in two weeks.
Max Normal: How the Max Got His Stripes, Part 6
Credits: Guy Adams (script), Dan Cornwall (art), Jim Boswell (colours), Simon Bowland (letters)
Kent Falkenberg: Under Guy Adams and Dan Cornwall’s careful characterization, Max Normal has truly become a character with a finely polished Oxford and spiffy argyle sock placed permanently in the past. And with that consideration in mind, it makes perfect sense that ‘How the Max Got His Stripes, Part 6’ plays out almost entirely in Normal’s backstory.
On one hand, that does make for an interesting tale. The legend of how this zebra earned his pinstripes is definitely heating up. Adams raises the stakes enough by pitting Max and Mo against one another that this portion of the story finally has an urgency that catches up to what we’ve seen happen in the present. Indeed, the initial burst of speed that Cornwall captures the instant Max darts away from the would-be assassin bolts with such intensity that the momentum carries through the rest of the strip.
Unfortunately, Mo Bland devolves into monologue when he finally corners his youthful prey. And where Adams rhyming swing has usually added a lyrical lilt to the dialog, here the cadence comes off awkwardly. There’s a chance this could be Adams tipping his hand to Mo not actually being quite the king of cool he thinks himself to be. But in execution, it leads to a bit of a dead spot in ‘How the Max Got His Stripes, Part 6.’ It’s a shame too, because the rest of Cornwall’s splash page is effortlessly smooth, much in the way that Max is now.
This week, Adams and Cornwall serve up of one of the best looking installments in this arc. But it really is time to go back to the future now.
Future Shock: They Shoot Monsters, Don’t They?
Credits: Billy Higgins (script), Tony Allcock (art), Annie Parkhouse (letters).
Tom Shapira: A Pokémon parody, in 2019? Aren’t we a bit past the prime for these kind of animal-fighting-for-kids jokes? Well, I guess there’s this new live-action movie coming soon; always felt like 2000AD lost something when it stopped shamelessly stealing ideas from whatever was popular at the time. Anyway, this done-in-one doesn’t seem to really have a lot to say about Pokémon or the culture that surrounds it; our protagonist is a bitter old monster fighter whose prized champion became a shadow of its former-self, losing fights and losing respect. If you can read the title you won’t be too shocked to learn what happens to it.
This Future Shock doesn’t offer a lot of shock; in fact, once it sorted out the premise it doesn’t seem to have a lot to offer past that. There’s a hint of an emotional attachment to the idea of an athlete past his prime who insists on playing the game because he has nothing else, but instead the strip veers towards brutality for brutality’s sake. The last gag is gross, but in the taboo-breaking sense, it just feels lazy at how expected it is.
Tony Allcock’s art likewise starts well-enough, there’s a hint of 2000AD classic in the way the figures contort themselves as they punch one another, but as the strip progresses it seems like he’s losing interest in it: backgrounds, not really a strong point to begin with, become spare and faces becomes sketches; the final page feels particularly rushed in execution.
“They Shoot Monsters, Don’t They?” feels like it has the core of a good idea, possibly even one that could carry an ongoing strip, but it ends up disappointing – just like the protagonist in its center.
Kingmaker: Oroborous Part 7
Credits: Ian Edginton(script), Leigh Gallagher (art), Ellie De Ville (letters)
Greg Lincoln: If there is a bit of a let down this week it’s the slight confusion in the action during the showdown with the Thorn lead by Yarrow’s father. After a bit of threats and posturing following their abrupt entry at the end of last week we’re treated to a disco/rave floorshow strobe of pink green and silver. It’s bright and colorful. Even though the art by Gallagher is still sharp and detailed the action in his panels are little hard to follow all said and done. Though it’s obvious what happened to Crixus that leads to the final odd panel of this chapter it’s hard to say how it happened.Continued below
The story by Ian Edginton is pretty clear. The greenskins and our trip of heroes quickly become one force fighting against the group of invaders lead by the dryad, Yarrow’s , father. It’s an interesting irony that Ablard’s group fights alongside the orc leader and his people, it’s even commented on by Yarrow’s father. The truly odd twist that comes in the final panel implies a lot and explained nearly nothing. Depending in the resolution of that next week it may change my entire view of this largely fun fantasy mashup romp.