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: New Blood, Part One
Credits: Rory McConville (script), Siku (Art), Annie Parkhouse (letters)
Rowan Grover: This new series looks at one of the more underlooked aspects of the “Judge Dredd” universe, the recruitment, and training process. Rory McConville has a very strong, precise narrative here, and we understand almost immediately what’s going on through some clever storytelling. McConville name drops a potential cadet in the flashback by the name Eric, and then later, reveals that the man holding the hall of cadets hostage also shares the name, Eric. The plot unfolds further from here: we see the complication from Eric’s past that led him to this point, that Dredd told expelled him under the grounds that he was good on paper, but cracked under pressure. We see McConville channeling some of that good old, uncompromising nature that Dredd embodies both in when disciplining Eric and in accepting the resolve to go and stop him once and for all. It’s a story simple in its setup that still carries a lot of weight thanks to the way that McConville hits every beat with clary, each narrative edge trimmed of fat.
Siku, like McConville, has a style here that feels very clarified and uncomplicated. Everything on the page feels like it has a purpose: the Judge Dredd toy that Eric plays with on the first page sets up his positioning of the character as an idol only to have his dreams dashed by him later. The next page works as a sort of future macro version of the page, with the camera positioned on the Judges talking rather than the prospective candidates, to give you a complete view of the academy. There’s some really solid page structuring throughout this too, that gives the story a great sense of grandeur. The shot of Dredd reminiscing about expelling Eric is all done on the backdrop of Dredd’s stoic face, a great way of showing literal remembrance. The following page also shows what’s essentially the same shot of three judges lined up in three panels, but each one is more zoomed out, to show a great diagonal curve that signifies Dredd’s power and standing in the lineup.
“New Blood” is a great start to a story of a cadet gone wrong. McConville’s script is powerfully simple and hits each narrative like a swinging hammer on an anvil. Siku’s art mirrors this, with art that only highlights the necessary and page structure that is both stylish and layered, dripping with meaning.
Scarlet Traces: Home Front Part 6
Credits Ian Edginton(scrip) D’Israel (art) Ellie De Ville (letters)
Michael Mazzacane: The last strip was a perfect spot leave our two leads for the moment and begin to explore the rest of the conflict. Something this strip has done pretty well actually is drop things to jump to another area of the front, primarily in that doomed space sequence, and help give the reader a sense of the scale all in 5 page chunks.
As ‘Home Front’ enters into its sixth entry we follow a news reporter and the dangers of being on the front lines of an alien invasion. D’Israel returns to the shades of a single color aesthetic, once again baking everything in shades of red and light orange after a page putting the reader in the point of view of a television viewer. The shock of pulling out from a 3×3 grid into a much larger set of images as the Martian walkers suck the lively juices out of poor Cameraman Bob is an effective page turn and way of reorienting the reader as in the middle of it.
What follows is an actually if not funny, playful kind of strip we haven’t really had. Leave it to gorilla tactics and Home Alone style thinking to lighten things up as Fay Alexander discovers the Resistance! As Fay questions what about the man who threw the distracting Molotov Cocktail she’s reassured that he’s “an old hand” at this sorta stuff. Which leads to the hilarious reveal of him running away and cursing himself. His path is all part of the plan though and we get more homespun traps that actually manage to take out a walker! How average working class folk are somehow able to outsmart and overtake alien machines when the army could not, is left for another time. The point is they’re achieving the minor victory of survival.Continued below
“Scarlet Traces” opens up a new theater as it builds the scale of the Martian invasion and manages to keep everything legible and engaging.
Max Normal: How the Max Got His Stripes, Part 8
Credits: Guy Adams (script), Dan Cornwall (art), Jim Boswell (colours), Simon Bowland (letters)
Kent Falkenberg: Guy Adams and Dan Cornwall face forward once again as Max finds he still has a thing or two to learn about the uncertainties and realities of the present. And in bringing him back to the current timeline, ‘How the Max Got His Stripes, Part 8′ finally seems to thematically tie together those pesky, sadistic preteens with the ghosts of the past.
Cornwall spends a lot of time showing Max and Vito staring directly out at the reader. This has been extremely effective throughout the entire arc as a means to layer a series of minute facial tics to depict a deliciously deadpan reaction to Adams’ dialog. Here, though, coming after the script spent so long in flashback, there’s almost a deer-caught-in-the-headlights aspect to it. Cornwall’s decision seems to imply that these two characters have been so caught up in the past that they’re almost paralyzed in the face of an oncoming future.
In that way, it makes perfect sense that Adams’ script is targeting a new generation of young, punky street kids at Max and Vito. Whereas Max took the helping hand that Mo once extended and adopted the aesthetic of that older generation as the entirety of his ethos, the kids he’s up against straight up murdered their parents without remorse. More than just a tale about generational divides, Adams and Cornwall have taken there story to be a conflict between those beholden to the past and those to whom the past was something to overcome.
‘How the Max Got His Stripes, Part 8’ lumbers along at a few points. But it is as thematically rich as this series has ever been.
Tharg’s 3Rillers: The Chimera, Part 2
Credits: James Peaty (script), Brian Corcoran (art), Matt Soffe (colors), Annie Parkhouse (letters).
Tom Shapira: and so it turns out “Chimera” actually has something more interesting in mind than the usual travel-to-a-fantasy-reality story. This still go all pear-shaped but so far I am rather pleased with what they do here: “Chimera” seems to be an attempt to parse the distance between utopian idealism and realpolitik, with the understand that all too often ‘realpolitik’ is just a code word for ‘keeping things as they are even if everyone is miserable.’
The science fiction world of tomorrow the protagonists inhabit is really not very different from our own and their constant sadness at the grind of life that is, at best, an attempt to tire oneself as to not see the world fully. But is the utopia promised in the other (alternate? virtual?) world something truly achievable or just a dream sold in order to get our heroes to break the system without really knowing how to follow through?
It’s an interesting quandary, a lot of it depends on how the final strip will close the story next week. So far “Chimera” proves better than expected, with the weak spot being the undeveloped characters, I can’t really recall the name of the lead or anything particular about her; the art, likewise, never really rises above the level of ‘solid’ – I get that real-world is meant to be dull and grey but even the fantasy ends up not soaring too high, offering generic images of people frolicking in nature.
Still curious to see where, exactly, this story will go….
Kingmaker: Oroborous Part 9
Credits: Ian Edginton (script), Leigh Gallagher (art), Ellie De Ville (letters)
Greg Lincoln: This chapter, this short five pages, delivers the absolute feeling of catharsis that the entire final season thus far of Game of Thrones has be all but devoid of. Edginton in this short few pages brought some bombast, threats and a brief fight before allowing Crixus to give us something unexpected. Granted a great deal of power it’s easy and expected that he might lay waste to the forces that so recently caused his premature and temporary demise. His use of his newfound power to create rather then destroy is exciting, hopeful, and leaves you with just the right amount of hell yes and wonder that comics and fantasy can deliver.
Leigh Gallagher did his best to create a thrilling battle sequence. Unlike the earlier one that Wes a little on the confused side this one is a full on success. Like the surprise that comes in the story the battle between the dryad traitor and Crixus is a visual treat and fully cathartic in the visual delivery. Gallagher May have his the overall Stone People in the darkness of the final page but the hints make them look like another brilliant unique fantasy creation. Another fantasy series may have disappointed recently but Kingmaker, Tolkien homage/satire or not, made up for that.