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
Cadet Dredd: School Trip
Credits: Rory McConville (script), Ilias Kyriazis(art), Gary Caldwell(colours), Annie Parkhouse(letters)
Michael Mazzacane: Before he was a Judge, the man called Dredd was a cadet. Saying there is an innocence to a Dredd strip just feels wrong, but there is a certain childish naivete to the art that is necessary for this strip to work. How else could a joke about technology solving their crime problems in the form of googly eyes land? It also allows the creative team to puncture the aura of Dredd, who knew before he was a ruthless enforcer of order Cadet Dredd was a bit of an impish lil brat as he and his class take a tour of a Tak-Facility. Until something goes wrong and the legend of Dredd begins to devlope.
Ilias Kyriazis and Gary Caldwell give this young adult vision of Dredd and “Invincible” feel in the best way. Galdwell’s colors are bright and poppy, surprising for the amount of green in them. Kyriazis line work is cartoonish, full of energy, and dripping with potentially gruesome violence as the cadet squad battle an alien invasion. The design work walks a fine line between being overly cartoonish and over designed. There is one page that is somewhat cumbersome, as the cadets burst forward with a set of experimental weapons. Due to the large size of this bursting image the subsequent action is a bit muddled as everything is squeezed together, Caldwell’s coloring does help cohere things. The coloring by Caldwell in general is a good example of how coloring can really enhance the mood of a piece.
Earlier I called Cadet Dredd an impish lil brat, that is still the case but there is also a yearning for action that comes through. He might jump head first into battle but he is his most freighting yelling at the senior Judge who started this whole mess, as Kyriazis emphasizes the terse jawline.
The final page of this strip is one of the coolest meta page designs I’ve seen in a while. Dredd is the comic and the comic is Dredd. It once again uses some of the key iconography associated with the series to foreshadow what will become of this brash cadet who loves Justice so much.
Finder and Keeper: Dead Signal
Leah Williams and John Reppion (script), David Tinto(art), Jim Boswell(colors),Simon Bowland (letters)
Greg Lincoln: “Finder and Keeper Dead Signal” introduces Meera and Eliot Hunter, a pair of teen supernatural hunters due to their possession of a couple of Victoria’s paranormal devices that actually function as advertised, well at least the spooktacles worked because we never saw the ghost trap carried by Elliot in action. Leah Williams and John Reppion created a pair of very like able heroes in Meera and Elliot developed by the banter between the two and their relation to the world around them. They come off as curious and clever but not annoyingly so. They are amusingly fallible as well as bright as they attempt to figure out from available clues why the Ram guardian spirit sensed a threat to the cemetery and solved. More Ghostbusters then Buffy the Vampire Slayer with a script that was a ‘Dead Signal’ is a one shot that feels as if it has the legs to become something more.
Davide Tinto and Jim Boswell created an appropriately cartoonish look for the story. Tinito’s command of expression told you as much about who our heroes are as did the dialogue. His character and creatures designers are very appealing, particularly the anthropomorphic Ram guardian, and they create an impression of a world. Finder and Keeper feels both familiar as urban fantasy inspired by recognizable inspiration and still new and fresh enough to be ifs own thing. His “Victorian” googles appears kind of too modern looking be Victorian but the Keeper device does certainly fit the bill. Despite that one flaw the one shot looks pretty solid and would be welcome back for a fuller story.Continued below
Future Shocks: ‘Living Your Best Life’
Karl Stock (Script), Luke Horsman (Art), John Charles (Colors), Annie Parkhouse (Letters)
Christopher Egan: Future Shocks is always good for a laugh at some dark humor through the consequences of man’s hubris and the over the top morality tales. ‘Live Your Best Life’ is a perfect blend of those two things, as scientists at the mega corporation NooU (get it?) perfect a process of effectively resurrecting anyone (with the cash to spare). This form of reincarnation allows their essence to be transferred into the body of any living creature they choose. All with their memories and ability to speak intact.
Karl Stock’s script is a delightful dark comedy is a technology laden nightmare a la Black Mirror paired with the tongue-in-cheek dialogue of Tales From The Crypt. The intro to this story is so goofy and loads of fun as we get an explanation of the process from NooU’s celebrity spokes…people. Most of the story centers on Barry Nemus – the exponentially spoiled heir to a weapons tech corporation. He is the kind of man who has never had any doubts that the world owes him anything and everything he could ask for.
Once he learns of this reincarnation process, he sees it as a ticket to not just immorality, but to having any body he can dream up on a whim. Oddly enough, rather than using his existing power to get what he wants, he goes about it in a manner that makes no sense for a man of his status. Though there isn’t much to say about Barry other than that he is an idiot with a huge bank account and lots people in his employ willing to do anything he says. He of course wants a new body…TODAY. It isn’t really clear, but one could assume Barry looks to just keep jumping from body to body as he become bored with the latest choice.
Horsman’s illustrations are fun and schlocky. Just as Stock’s story is all in good fun, his artwork is fully in on the silliness that is the world of 2000 AD. A cyberpunk comedy with a taste of Tim Burton whimsy comes together in this chuckle worthy sci-fi short. John Charles colors the story with a palette and style that is both Saturday Morning Cartoon and incredibly layered and ingeniously planned out.
This is a really fun story with just enough twisty black humor to appeal to most readers. Like a bubblegum comic strip seen through a Cronenberg, darkly.
The Gronk: The Trouble with Gronkes
David Ballie (script) Rob Davis (art) Jim Campbell (lettering)
Matthew Blair: “The Gronk: The Trouble with Gronkses” is a nice new spin on the classic anti-bullying story where intergalactic reality show star Atlantis Valentine bullies an entire planet full of metal eating furry creatures that speak through their noses and faint at the first sight of trouble into thinking he is a god and winds up getting more than he bargained for.
Yes, that sentence does make sense once you read the story.
In all fairness, once you get past the weird names and dialogue, writer David Ballie makes the story of “The Gronk: The Trouble with Gronkses” is a well written and cleverly done anti-bullying story. Atlantis Valentine is an absolute jerk of an alien who cares nothing about the wellbeing of others and just wants to make life miserable for everyone else for his own amusement. Meanwhile, the poor little Gronks are just cowardly enough to appear helpless at first glance, but just enough of them wind up being brave enough and clever enough at the end of the story to defeat the bully—in a safe, non-violent, and child friendly manner—once and for all.
Speaking of child friendly, the art work for “The Gronk: The Trouble with Gronkses” does a great job of making the story unique and friendly to a much younger audience. Artist Rob Davis manages the delicate balancing act between making the artwork friendly enough for kids but scary enough to be engaging very well. The main villain of the story is a giant humanoid T-Rex with crab claws that looks intimidating without needing a ton of blood and gore, while the Gronks themselves look like a small, furry cross between the bastard love child of Dr. Seuss and Jim Henson’s weirdest alien design.Continued below
“The Gronk: The Trouble with Gronkses” is a weird, silly, and bizarre little story filled with weird aliens that have some of the strangest speech patterns you will ever read. However, at the end of the day the story is a timeless tale about how bullying is wrong and the courage it takes to stand up against anyone who is bigger and meaner than you.
Rogue Trooper: Savage Swamp
Cavan Scott (script), Nick Roche (art), Abigail Bulmer (colors) Simon Bowland (letters)
Rowan Grover: With this one-shot compared to the last, we get a little more personality from the lively bits of equipment that Rogue carries with him. Scott gives each of them a unique flavor of sass and wit which contrasts Rogue’s stoic soldier mannerism well, especially giving the story a more YA tone. I do think it’s interesting that Rogue chooses to take pity on one of his Nort enemies, as it feels like the comic is deliberately fishing for that younger audience understanding. It does make the series feel more traditional sci-fi rather than the weird, outcast type that 2000AD is known for, I feel. The introduction of the G.I. rejects remedies this somewhat, as they are the weird but friendly bunch that the book does well, although Scott gets a little hand-holdy and explains their origins when it doesn’t really benefit this particular story as much. I love the ideas of found family and acceptance explore towards the end, however, especially with the gruff guy-turned-softie Agro.
Roche does some great action work with this prog, delivering chunky linework that excels with fast-paced action. The opening sequence with the Norts is a lot of fun because of this, especially through the way that the purple tree-tentacle monster grapples a Nort and Rogue in its wild grasp. Roche also gives the G.I. Rejects a great ‘70s punk aesthetic that fits right in with the ideas that they represent. Lank is my favorite possibly just for being the weirdest, with the long fingers looking delightfully interesting as he salutes Rogue and the others. Bulmer’s coloring here also looks great, conveying the dark but still vibrant nature of the swamp to fit in with giving the story a tone more appropriate for a younger audience. The use of purples and more muddy colors in the night scenes are what really pop for me, showing Bulmer getting to be expressive with a more restrained palette.
“Rogue Trooper” delivers another visual treat yet a story that does feel a little slight and over-caring at times. This is still a fun visit to the character’s world, whether you’re a long time fan or just getting into the series, however.