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: Kill Bloopy Part 3
Credits Kenneth Niemand (script) Dan Cornwell(art) Jim Boswell(colours)Annie Parkhouse(letters)
Michael Mazzacane: Billy’s attack on the Judge’s HQ continues as the former imaginary friend of Dr. Ditka’s history comes out. This is the type of person who could start a fight in an empty room, literally.
Dan Cornwell’s choices for framing this attack are what makes this whole thing work. As the robotic judge from the previous strip points out, this is kind of absurd even by “Dredd” standards. Cornwell doesn’t lean into the absurdity, until the very end, instead he choses to play things relatively straight or at least in an understandable dramatic register. He treats Billy as if he were a slasher villain, tracking the imperceptible former friend not in fleeting glimpses but the shocked and terrified faces of their Judge victims. I assume those faces are terrified, their mouths were certainly agape as Billy smashes them about. Cornwell’s ever so slightly cartooned style also really helps in selling the gore of these kills. They aren’t overdone and needless, but limbs are clearly missing and blood is splattered. The slight bit of cartooning helps to both emphasize the gore and make the thing darkly humorous, an absurd but fitting juxtaposition for a story centered around a killer imaginary friend.
Billy’s attempts are the frame for everything as they roam the outside and often edges of the page. Which makes for a clearer interior space as Dredd tries to figure what exactly is going on with not a lot of information or time on his side. Dredd is shown to be central to everything but also rendered surprisingly helpless in this episode of the strip. That sort of placement creates a surprising amount of tension for a 6 page strip until it finally boils over and Dredd takes out his Lawgiver and points it in a surprising direction.
Through smart framing and a basic aesthetic of denial the creative team take a strip that could of in other hands been played for plenty of laughs and turned it into a surprisingly tense home invasion strip.
Brink: Hate Box, Part Sixteen
Credits: Dan Abnett (script), Inj Culbard (art), Simon Bowland (letters)
Rowan Grover: There’s a lot of little clever character moments that make this installment of “Hate Box” so enjoyable even though this damn strip has been going for sixteen whole progs. Right from the start, having Tunde interrupt Bridget to make the effort of introducing himself feels like a great development of the character claiming his agency back. Having Bridget later be super manipulative with the criminal Martine also feels like a level up for the character as she’s willing to toe the line between morally black and white to achieve her ends, without going totally corrupt like some of her colleagues. We know as soon as she says that she’s seen the ‘Earth Porn’ that she’s lying due to the larger context of the series, but the way that she tells Martine this feels like she’s putting on an unbreakable poker face. The ending is also a well-earned but surprising twist featuring a character well established in the series, showing Abnett’s talent for long-term storytelling.
Character acting has been something that Culbard has developed to a fine point over the course of this series, and it’s something that makes each of the latest progs so entertaining. I love seeing how much Tunde sways between moments of confidence before slipping into fear briefly for the next panel, as it does so much to suggest his character even to readers that might have only jumped in with this prog. The camera angles are also handled nicely in this prog to convey how tortured and twisted Martine has become due to his criminal experience. Every time a panel zooms in on the character, we get a fish-eye effect that makes him look bulbous and inhuman, creating that separation for readers to feel uncomfortable when reading his dialogue. There’s not much in the way of setting work in this prog, however, the last panel does a great job at stylishly depicting a crime scene through the use of silhouettes and lighting and I love it.Continued below
There’s no telling at this point when “Hate Box” will slow down, but I’m still enjoying the slow unfolding of the plot and the exciting character moments developed over time. Abnett and Culbard have been given the space to refine their story as best they can, which is something I really appreciate in the modern comics market.
Proteus Vex: Another Dawn Part 4
Michael Carroll (script), Henry Flint(art), Simon Bowland (letters)
Greg Lincoln: Midnight Indicating Shane graces the cover of this issue of 2000AD and really plays out as the star of this part of “Proteus Vex: Another Dawn.” She May not be a “violent criminal” but several people, including our lead character, learn that she is no one to be taken lightly or underestimated. Sure this week we find out where Vex’s quarry is and head out to pursue him but it’s the actions Midnight takes both violent and incidentally humorous that take center stage over all the other interesting world building narration. Carroll’s story this week ties together the narrative build up of the first couple installments and pages off in ways that makes the me sad to have said it was a dry or slow read.
Harry Flint and Simon Bowland created some pretty glorious pages this week. Flints line work and flair for design are always a joy but his mix of dull tones contrasted with bright fluorescents make the pages very vibrant. The contrast also makes certain elements stand out, particularly the more monotone elements like Midnight “herself” and the flashback/exposition moments. The art brings forth just how weird and strange that this science fantasy setting is. There are no humans in sight and it’s only now that this is actually really a reality that occurs to me. The visual world building is so rich that it’s alienness doesn’t really stand out. Simon Bowland made his text part of the reading experience seamlessly and occasionally it’s strangely an element of the background too. Payoff arrives this week for the patience for the setting and story to come fully into being.
The Zaucer of Zilk: Part 4 – A Zaucerful of Zecrets
Peter Hogan (Script), Brendan McCarthy (Art, Colors, & Story), Len O’Grady (Colors), Jim Campbell (Letters)
Christopher Egan: Action! Brutality! Magic wands! The Zaucer battles Craggaknock at the Carnival of Lights. Part 4 picks up seconds from where we were left last week. The Zaucer has his treasured wand once again, but his confidence is waning for the first time in his life. He is staring down the villainous Craggaknock who now has a wand of his own, but something is off about it. It seems unstable and unsuitable for a battle of magicks. Like Kylo Ren’s lightsaber, the energy coming off of it is messy and angry, and looks like it could explode in his hand at any moment.
The Zaucer is fearing for his life for the first time. He is truly afraid of what Craggaknock could do with this dark doppelganger of a wand. The Zaucer fires first, but misses and takes a direct hit from his opponent. He immediately yields to Cragga, asking if they can take a moment to talk. He tells him that the wand he believes is the Zaucer’s is, in fact, not his. Knowing he is beaten, the Zaucer calls a truce saying that he has been lied to and they work out a loose partnership for future incursions. It’s a funny and unexpected conclusion to this wand battle. The immediate build up of tension is quickly released and then picks up in the final panels as a mysterious green woman grabs the Zaucer from behind telling him his shoulder is dislocated and she is going to help him with it.
Just as the chapter began with shocking immediacy, the final moments are quick and jolt us out of the story, putting us on hold until next week.
‘A Zaucerful of Zecrets’ part 4 is a step up from last week’s chapter. It’s action packed, funny, and gives the story a fresh jump start that it needed. It leaves readers with an honest questioning of what’s to come.Continued below
Feral & Foe: Part Four
Credits: Dan Abnett (script), Richard Ellson (art), Richard & Joe Ellson (colors), Annie Parkhouse (letters)
Christa Harader: Ugbrant is pretty annoying, but he got done dirty, he did.
Oh well. Par for the course in this universe, when the person who starts a war is called a “murderlord.”
Abnett and Ellson give Bode an upgrade in this installment, and Wrath gets a little too far into considering her morality after beheading the owner of the castle they’re robbing. The humor still works, the plot is ticking along nicely and Ellson’s creature design continues to impress. Abnett and Ellson are committed to making “Feral and Foe” weird, and that extra dose of bizarreness – from character expressions to how magic works – helps sell the whole conceit. The Ellsons use the same brighter colors from the last installment, including a nice gradient down one page from blue at the top to red at the bottom, and that extra bit of style helps “Feral and Foe” come together as a cohesive product. Parkhouse’s lettering continues to impress, with an ecstatic sound effect from Bode and good balloon placement.
Too bad about Ugbrant – he was the nicest tank you’ll ever see – but Wrath and Bode are on to the core of their adventure in the next installment, and given their track record so far it remains to be seen if they’ll succeed. Or what success even looks like in this universe.