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: Simply Normal Part 3
Credits: Kenneth Niemand (script), Steven Austin (art), Chris Blythe (colours), Annie Parkhouse (letters)
Christopher Egan: Daisy’s mission to rescue her wife Pansy is underway as she learns how to hold and fire a gun under the tutelage of the radical simps. The radicalized clowns are ready to raid the conversion institute. In true simp fashion, they’re going to go about it their way with no real plan. A few attempts at humor early on would be almost worth a chuckle if the story worked as a whole.
The imbalance between humorous satire and reflection on conversion therapy has not worked this entire time, and it doesn’t start here. Unfortunately, the flipside of this coin is a reality that too many people live with today for this plot to be anything other than bleak and tone deaf. The plan is to make a biting satire, as all things “Judge Dredd” have been from the start, but it falls flat from start to finish. Niemand’s intentions with this story are in the right place, but there is a better way to execute a story like this.
The strongest moment of writing is actually seeing Erma (Pansy) in the lab being told she her head should be filled with violence and destruction like every other resident of Mega City One, as opposed to clowning and wanting to draw flowers. A scene like this only works because the reader knows what the story is getting at in terms of what it is satirizing. These moments come together a bit better than a lot of the set up did, it’s grasping better branches to pull itself up, but the real power and nuance just isn’t there. I do applaud the greater effort being made this time around. I would have preferred this chapter stick to this interaction because, while the action is decent, anything involving Judge Dredd feels totally out of place.
One highlight over the previous two entries is that the usage of the six-page format is utilized in a far better manner this week. We get multiple scenes and settings, with a nice dose of action. Austin’s art is energetic and he gets to play around with a wider palette. It’s great to see things like the simp’s lair (Why is it just a concrete basement? It should have been a bonkers circus tent or something – put those crazy simp colors to use!), the conversion laboratory, and Dredd and Patsy in the streets kicking down doors. His work is surely the highlight of this chapter and it is the only thing that really pulled me in, even if for just a moment.
I hope Daisy finds Pansy quickly, because there are better stories to be told within these pages than “Judge Dredd: Simply Normal.”
Skip Tracer: Hyperballad Part Nine
Credits: James Peaty (script), Paul Marshall (art), Dylan Teague (colours) Simon Bowland (letters)
Ryan Pond: ‘Hyperballad’ has been a lot of fun, and I can’t wait to see what Nolan gets up to after this. But hopefully that doesn’t mean his adventures with India are completely over. She wasn’t always my favorite companion, but by the end she really learned to hold her own and play her cards close to her chest, just like her hero.
As things come to a wrap, Peaty’s talent is all the more apparent as India gets to escape the limelight for a bit and Nolan gets his full payment. There is a tropey ploy here about insurance money, but Peaty is able to make it a little more interesting by playing with age restrictions and inheritance. It helps make the story play out a little smoother, and ultimately we get to see India use her moneymaking voice to bring Van Hess to his knees after admitting his terrible scheme, Scooby-Doo style.Continued below
The art by Marshall is just as great as always, and Teague again delivers on colors. I think the most interesting panel in the book does a lot with shadow black silhouettes on a red background to infer the brutality of Van Hess’ death. This series has worked a lot in blues, with white and yellow being accent colors. The bold red panel really sticks out and burns a memorable impression into the mind. Overall, nine parts long, this series brings it home in the perfect way.
‘Hyperballad’ Part Nine delivers the end of the story in the perfect way. Van Hess got his just deserts, Nolan got his payment, and India got her freedom. I can’t wait for more Skip Tracer as they hint at Nolan’s previous relationship in the cliffhanger, but I think the more interesting takeaway is that there is an ex-popstar growing up in the universe on her own. That could be interesting down the road.
Stickleback: New Jerusalem, Part Eight
Credits: Ian Edginton (script), D’Israeli (art), Jim Cambell (letters)
Michael Mazzacane: As the Three Sisters rightly state “Matters are coming to a head” before taking their true forms as hideous insectoid like creatures. This set of “Stickleback” is drawing to a close as our anti-hero and his strange friends appear to defeat the great eldritch evil that has been threatening London. Spectacle has been at the center of these most recent strips with their kaiju big battles and large panel drawings by D’Israeli. It sets up the expectations that such large problems must need large solutions. Interestingly, Edginton and D’Israeli side step the question of scale when it comes to defeating this evil while still creating moments of visual spectacle.
D’Israeli sets up a rather comforting visual pattern in this strip of setting a large anchor image in the bottom right or left of the page, except for the final page. This pattern gives each page a feeling of unity and scale, even as the justifications for the ‘how’ of it all are small, esoteric, and more philosophically driven which creates an interesting dissonance. The Three Sisters are defeated in a hail of bullets fired from a gatling gun, humorously hidden in a street food vendor cart. The gatling gun fills the air with bullets but at the sametime Stickleback notes there is only 30 of these bullets because the silver used in them comes from the coinage that purchased Judas. The image of the machine gun and the bullets is spectacular and full of life-death, but it reveals a certain precision.
This similar dissonance comes from how their Father is defeated, which resolves on a very “War of the Worlds” sort of logic. To be of this world the Father must be of this world and that makes him a subject to the will of London City. The imagery is again large as it mixes nature with surrealism. But, at the same time there is this smallness to the undoing that creates a fun dissonance.
This adventure isn’t over for Stickleback just yet as there is still the spirit his past foes to deal with.
Credits: Alex Worley (Writer), Leigh Gallagher (Art), Simon Bowland (Letters)
Jacob Cordas: Aaaah, endings. You need to close the lid on this narrative but leave it open for more. Any good monster can come back again. And again. And again. And then get it’s a sequel that none of the other series hint at with a pun in the title that does not pay off. And then get a weird remake in the early aughts that showed how hard it was to replicate the original’s energy. And then finally get a team that gets the source material but doesn’t get too creative with it so it feels like a success even when it isn’t one.
“Hook-Jaw Nine” leaves it open the way it needs too. The story is finished off here, with a little ghost magic and a little bit too easy an answer. It struggles with the problem most stories do when only told in nine page chunks. The build up made it worth it but Worley nearly whiffs it with the ending.Continued below
It’s still visually exciting. Gallagher has done some of the best work of their career here and this conclusion is no exception. Special notice deserves to be given to the beast covered in ghosts dragging it under. It’s exciting, dynamic. The coloring choices make it feel cerebral, something that doesn’t seem applicable to a shark-monster comic but here we are.
At the end of the day, this was what I wanted out of what I read. It was fun, over the top nonsense. It incorporated a bit of worker politics over the course of it. There were some jabs at modern technology – which also led to some of the more exciting visuals.
“Hook-Jaw” was what “Hook-Jaw” wanted to be. Looking back on the seas this team made for me, I’m happy I got to swim in it.
Fiends of the Eastern Front: Constanta Part 8
Credits: Ian Edginton (script), Tiernen Trevallion (art), Annie Parkhouse (letters)
Greg Lincoln: Nearly slain at birth, raised by wolves, talked with dragons, fought against an with a troll and now made undead by the fates. It’s a long a twisted fairytale nightmare journey that Ian Edginton has lead the Constanta on, and its an adventure that may only just really be beginning. Edginton’s interpretation of the fates, the three witches is more sinister then they seemed. Last week we saw their hand in the life of our ”hero” and thus week we see what that path wrought.
Ian Edginton’s story leaves a lot of the storytelling to Trevallion’s artwork. ‘Chapter eight’ is action heavy as that install stabbing last week didn’t finish off our “hero.” Skade does his best to protect his adopted “son” and things go to hell. Trevallion’s art may look a bit solid, stylized and static but he does some pretty solid action scenes. He delivers some great stylized violence as the troll takes the hits meant for the Constanta. What really shines are the cold scenes showing the fates summoned again by the black candle. They are so impressive looking and sinister, they are a great choice to grace the cover of this issue. Trevallion also makes the drinking of the blood and Constanta’s turning a fresh seeming scene for a well trod genre scene. It likely feels so unique due to his appealing stylized art