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: End of Days, Part Fifteen
Credits Rob Williams (script), Henry Flint (art), Chris Blythe (colours), Annie Parkhouse (letters)
Michael Mazzacane: ‘End of Days’ comes to an end. Going in Williams had put the story in a tough spot: The Lunar-1 base is coming to Earth, Dredd is possessed by the Horsemen Death, Anderson is dead, Ichabod is dead. Judge Giant Jr. is the only one of the cast the audience has any real connection to that is still around. Luckily this strip has 8 pages instead of 6 to wrap it up in, so no problem.
A few Progs back I mentioned how there exists a space in this story for some interesting commentary on the nature of “Dredd” or things will be yadayada’d away real fast. Williams doesn’t dig as far into commentary as I’d like, but he doesn’t handwave away things either. It isn’t clean, a total Deus ex machina, but as a certain brand of superhero comic is wont to do he puts the toys back together after smashing them. Anderson being revealed to be the mysterious figure who set up Ichabod in a Crisis-like attempt to rewrite and undermine reality as part of a time loop, is some Doctor Who stuff that isn’t entirely effective on an emotional level even though it is the frame that holds the story together. This reveal isn’t entirely out of nowhere, but the justification for her suddenly banishing the Angel from her reanimated person is. This sequence involves a fair amount of dialog and while Anderson-Angel is an amorphous figure, it isn’t the most effective or interesting visual storytelling in the series.
Action is more Flint and Blythe’s speed and their visual storytelling of the reveal of why Ichabod was chosen as a weapon to kill Death is an excellent reveal. Blythe bathes Giant’s showdown with Dredd in fire and flame that work wonderfully with the scratchy black ink of Flint’s line work.
While what happens to Anderson feels a bit rushed, how Williams and Co. work through Dredd as Death is more effective. It is a moment of pure action with none of the narration from an omniscient of cast members perspective that had normally surrounded the character. It is just legend in action, legend as action.
Overall I’d say Williams stuck the landing on the finale of ‘End of Days.’ Some of the storytelling choices are more a byproduct of the page budget than anything. He also sets up Judge Anderson for something interesting in the future if anyone wants to pick up that thread. For now the day is saved in Mega-City One.
The Diaboliks: A Crooked Beat Part 3
Credits: Gordon Rennie (script), Dom Reardon (art), Jim Campbell (letters)
Ryan Pond: In the exciting finale of “A Crooked Beat,” Deus Vult makes their way into the castle while The Diaboliks & Company try to hold them off. Rennie takes some nice prods at the 1% while Pazuzu gives a little lore about the castle, culminating in the elimination of Deus Vult through magical means. This pretty much reverses opinions of Pazuzu and he now has a nice, comfortable room in the castle.
Reardon has consistently delivered on high contrast black and white imagery in this series, and he does it by using very clean, straight lines. Which makes it all the more impactful when you get to the basement scene. The use of sketchy edges and broken blacks really gives the sense of chaos as the panelled grid layouts disappear and dancing shadows tell an abstract story that teeters on the edge of madness.
Jake Pazuzu proves himself with some magic and a bit of back knowledge. He earns a spot on the team as the Diaboliks emerge victorious over Deus Vult and in the end it is revealed that the next storyline will feature the return of Damien Dellamore, Investigatore di Fantasmi from Prog 2188.Continued below
The Out, Part Twelve
Credits: Dan Abnett (script), Mark Harrison (art), Annie Parkhouse (letters)
Brian Salvatore: In all of my write ups of “The Out,” I’ve praised how the tone shifts and meanders into new and interesting places without ever losing track of what makes “The Out” unique. After last week’s heartrending tale of a lost child, this week we find Cyd packing her bag – a special bag called a ‘Flatspace Bag’ which puts its items into an alternate dimension and adjusts the mass of the objects, so that in the space of a small bag, you can fit nearly infinite items. This is a fun little bit of world building, until the bag starts to speak.
Yes, you read that properly.
This entire final chapter is a conversation between Cyd and her bag, and it acts as a release valve after all the tension of the past few installments. It is hard to tell if this is all in Cyd’s mind, or if this is really a new supporting character in the series going forward – and as the chapter is concluded ‘end of Book One,’ it appears that we will be getting more of “The Out.” But the sudden shift in tone is still jarring, even if it mostly works. This is a weird, funny strip, with the bag complaining about various bodily fluids of Cyd’s that it has collected and collated or using Cyd’s own humor against her.
Harrison manages to give an inanimate object a but of character by just having its goofy smiley face logo prominently featured. It’s so simple and plain, compared to Cyd’s look, which is always changing. We see more of Cyd than ever before here, with her trying on some old clothing and taking the bag out to dinner (I can’t believe I just wrote that sentence). Instead of seeing Cyd reacting with the denizens of the Out, this is Cyd facing herself and her history for the firs time, and Harrison’s art, though never overtly, takes the reader on a journey to the inside.
This strip is one of the most imaginative and unique in 2000 AD‘s 2020 offerings, and I can’t wait to read what Abnett and Harrison have in store for Book Two.
Tharg’s 3rillers Present: Saphir, Un Roman Fantastique, Part 3
Credits: Kek-W (script), David Roach (art), Peter Doherty (colours), Simon Bowland (letters)
Noel Thorne: Giant interdimensional spiders are nesting in the Eiffel Tower. Well, I guess that’s it, right – the villains have won and our world is doomed? Unless… our heroes happen to know deus ex magica?!
The third and final part of “Sapir” is a bit of a mess. Kek-W’s compelling period murder mystery descends into silly blockbuster action as all tension is diffused effortlessly by Lady Sofia Corundum who turns out to be an unstoppable wizard who can do anything – so much so that it makes me wonder how she got hoodwinked in the first place! Inspector Mucha and giantess Jorges get stuck in too but they may as well not be there because Lady Sofia easily saves the day.
This is why magic is such an annoying aspect in stories – it can do anything you want with no clearly defined limits so what’s there to get 3rilled about? The titular bottle’s meaning is dashed off before the story rushes through an unremarkable finale. Even though giant spiders are crawling all over the Eiffel Tower and portals are opening everywhere, spectators think it’s an advertising stunt – which is really stupid. You could at least have them believe it’s real and then wipe their memories of the event afterwards – magic can do anything so why not that too?
David Roach’s art remains the bright spot in this mini-series. I really appreciate the effort he put into drawing such detailed period backgrounds – the objets d’art in Sofia’s house are wonderful. That said, he doesn’t seem to want to draw crowds so the grounds of the Eiffel Tower are eerily deserted when, even with the danger, you’d expect vast numbers of people to gather to see the “advertising stunt”.Continued below
The characters’ clothes look convincingly of their time and the spiders look metal AF, if a little generically monstrous. Peter Doherty’s colours are masterful, in particular the whites and blues, which are striking – the blue carnations really pop on the page. No idea why Jorges goes from blue skin to white skin though – something to do with the world she’s in at the time? It’s another underwritten feature of this story.
“Sapir” has been a great-looking series and a decent-enough read though the finale is too easily resolved with everything conveniently wrapped up thanks to “magic” – ugh. “Sapir Part 3” is a disappointingly hacky end to an otherwise ok comic.
Sinister Dexter: Bulletopia Chapter Three: Ghostlands, Part 2
Credits: Dan Abnett (Writer), Nicolo Assirelli (Art), John Charles (Colours), Simon Bowland (Letters)
Jacob Cordas: Man, oh man, does “Sinister Dexter” want you to notice it. Any short form, serialized storytelling is going to do everything it can to get you to look over and read. But rarely does it try this fucking hard.
Dan Abnett’s writing is filled with an impression of hard boiled dialogue. Characters are tropes and, with such a limited page count, can’t be disguised as anything else. A big word here and an attempt at a shocking twist there, doesn’t hide the effort being taken so you don’t notice this isn’t well written. And it is not well written.
Luckily Nicolo Assirelli and John Charles do a much better job this time around. The cluttered panels mesh perfectly with an environment that finally allows for it to be muted. The brightness of an outfit or sharpness of a hairstyle stand out against the silver-grays giving a sense of life to characters that otherwise wouldn’t have them, but even that feels too little too late.
The real stand out of the issue though is the letterer. Simon Bowland’s lettering does more to highlight the twist in this issue than anything else. The two sound effects he includes on the page take the already heightened moment and crank up the tension. The motion he imbues it with almost sells it. It hints at a moment that I could’ve really cared about.
There’s quite possibly a solid comic buried in here, or that this team is capable of making. But right now “Sinister Dexter” just is trying so hard to be noticed, to be hip, to be like the best sci-fi noir that it can’t bother succeeding at a single one of those things.