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: Desperadlands: 2
Credits: Mike Carroll (Writer), William Simpson (Art), Annie Parkhouse (Letters)
Jacob Cordas: There’s normally a point in any 2000 AD strip where you get the all action chapter. It’s fun and brazen, an excuse to let the artist cut loose. “Desperdlands: 2” is that chapter. It’s exclusively grimey action, the halfway point between Ridley Scott and Troma Entertainment.
William Simpson cuts loose and lets the viscera fly. The color pallet he had previously established naturally lends itself to the gore.: bullets and spears rip through skulls and chests, blood bursts forth and covers everything. Danger is just out of frame, but never outside the craft of the artist.
Mike Carroll’s writing is perfectly placed here. The gruffness that stood out in the previous chapter extenuates the action. Dialogue is only here to forward the momentum, never stall it. Extraneous characters are tossed aside in favor of their well-crafted organs bursting forth. It’s practical writing that does exactly what it needs to do. It’s the kind of craft I can look forward to every week.
This is what I want out of my “Judge Dredd:” ridiculous action, wild viscera and danger around every corner. Throw in some hard-boiled dialogue with excellent lettering by Annie Parkhouse and you have a dynamo of a serial.
Hershey: The Brutal, Part 3
Credits: Rob Williams (Script), Simon Fraser (Art), Simon Bowland (Letters)
Christopher Egan: Playing off the tension we were left with at the end of part 2. The action jumps back into the boxing ring as we get an up close and nasty look at this current match. The outcome is in favor of Mr. Edu’s interests as the fighter known as El Demonio wins. Edu looks to steal him away from his current manager for the fights in Ciudad Barranquilla and asks El Demonio where his loyalties lie. El Demonio obviously likes this new chance at stardom, promptly beating his old manager to death. The entire sequence happens so fast it does come off as a bit rushed, even for a shorter chapter like this. With half of the storytelling space already used up, it would have almost made sense to use this entire chapter to tell this part of the story.
Once that brutal unpleasantness is behind us, the story moves over to Dirty Frank sitting in a car with Joe, his newly adopted dog, thinking about the darkness in his past. It’s shocking and sad, and fully utilizes the single page to tell it. With its minimal use of dialogue we know exactly how to feel; sad and wrung out, just like Frank. This is the quietest and, possibly, the best part of this week’s chapter.
The last two pages once again focus on Hershey and Juninho as they get gas and use the rest stop facilities. Juninho recognizes that Hershey is an addict, abusing at least one substance. She denies it and attempts to re-route the conversation before returning to Frank and Joe, and the next leg of their journey. This reveal is mildly shocking, but right now it feels more like an inconsequential road block than a real story point.
The writing and art are up to the quality of the previous chapters. The illustrations are pure energy that keeps things moving, with or without text. Fraser’s line work is satisfying and detailed just to the point necessary for telling a compelling and complete story. His use of color captures true moods, even with only using two or three colors per scene, allowing our minds to fill in further details and set pieces. The colors really help differentiate it from other 2000AD strips. If it was all flash and wild styles, there is a good chance it would be lost in the noise. This work really mirrors the story that is being told and it is one of the best things about it.Continued below
“Hershey: The Brutal” Part 3, is just that: brutal. Plenty of bodily harm and emotional train wrecks have this story moving along, even if it could have used another issue to really expand its base.
Slaine: Dragontamer Part 3
Credits: Pat Mills (script), Leonardo Manco (art), Annie Parkhouse (letters)
Ryan Pond: The transition from a monster in part 2 back into the man with an ax is as seamless as it ever gets. And the way the story unfolds does a lot for the world-building that has been missing in the first part of this arc.
The art in this series continues to impress as we get more of the Slaine creature to start the story and then transition back into Slaine doing more insane things in the style of a Heavy Metal cover. The amount of detail that Manco puts into each panel is impressive, and the colors work so well. The way the underwater sections are illustrated brings a great perspective to the story and makes the mid-story turn splash that much better as Saline comes flying out of the water. The blend of top world, underwater, and flashback styles work to seamlessly weave different aspects of the story together.
Mills does a great job of showing off some more of the world in this script, and it makes the ruling class feel that much more evil. The choice to roll out some of Slaine’s abilities and ancestral history as he fights the dragon underwater and no real words can be spoken is a great way to establish his power set. And then to cut back to the capital and the evil overlords to show off some of their resources and capabilities while establishing the fight that lay ahead for Slaine and Brutania.
The world-building happening in this installment shows that Slaine is justified in his attacks on the ruling class. He is a monster, but he is a monster created by their own folly and now they must pay the price.
Proteus Vex: The Shadow Chancellor Part 3
Mike Carroll (script), Jake Lynch (art), Jim Boswell (colors), Simon Bowland (letters)
Greg Lincoln: With every page that Jake Lynch and Jim Boswell do, they seem to get more and more of a handle on how they present Proteus Vex. Even though our lead characters, Vex and Midnight, take a while to enter the stage, the chapter is a joy from the first moment to last. Caroll, Lynch, Boswell, and Bowland introduce us to Navarch Ko Andrum as the chapter opens. Across a few pages, the story creates the magic of endearing this new character to us as their plight as the last defender of a Mutaveron Outpost becomes more and more dire. Yes, Vex and Midnight enter the scene and save the day, but it’s the new character we feel for.
The synergy of the creative team behind this new arc really came together fully in these pages. The pencils and colors really bring the moments to life. They particularly work stunningly on Midnight’s appearance as the partner to Vex’s cavalry charge onto the scene and with the new hero Andrum. This chapter grew beautifully out of last week’s exposition heavy one and delivers all the tense, weird action that Proteus Vex has delivered in spades up until now. Getting a big action-filled chapter after the exposition heavy one last week gives a good narrative flow to the story.
Durham Red: Served Cold 03
Credits: Alec Worley (script), Ben Willsher (art), Jim Cambell(letters)
Michael Mazzacane: The third entry of ‘Served Cold’ is, on some level, a sound entry that makes the most of the five pages it has. At the same time this Assault on Precinct 13 in space is confusing to read in a few spots. We left off with the Sheriff getting a phone call from the attackers promising them money, followed by their life, in order to give up Red. The third strip picks up on the other side of the comm link showing the speaker to be a floating brain with stem and eyes, a fittingly graphic image. Their extremity contrasts with the tired Danny Gloverness of the Sheriff.
Where things get confusing is the sudden inclusion of the real money mark behind the whole thing, it feels arbitrarily thrown in there after Durham also runs out to get shot at, for … reasons. Either Worley’s script or Willsher’s art fail to communicate the various transitions that occur in the first three pages that would have given the action of the moment more clarity. Instead, it just reads as somewhat random.
These transitional moments aside, the third entry in ‘Served Cold’ makes good use of the five pages to push the plot forward and prime the reader to expect a large-scale assault in the next strip.