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: 3
Credits: Mike Carroll (Writer), William Simpson (Art), Annie Parkhouse (Letters)
Jacob Cordas: Three chapters in and “Desperadlands” still hasn’t slowed down. This chapter, in particular, finds space for so much exposition while never letting the pace up. Part of this is a side effect of the script by Mike Carroll. He sets the sprinter’s pace and writes dialogue that is able to stay well out of its own way, something 2000AD has never consistently been able to pull off.
The real hero in this is William Simpson. His art carries the pages with such a rich dynamism. Panels clutter the page overlapping each other and forcing them into all sorts of odd angles. Every choice is in service of the action – with it occasionally getting so active it actually bursts out of the panels.
Even the colors seem to only exist to heighten the drama and excitement. The greens and yellows of the previous chapters now leans heavily into a haunting purple. It gives the story a nightmarish, dream logic to it that, once again, serves to ratchet up the action. It doesn’t matter the unreality, what matters is the momentum and this comic has momentum in spades.
That’s all I really want from a story like this. I don’t need it to feint at political awareness. I don’t need the illusion of subtext. What I need from this kind of book is high octane, adventure story-telling that makes me get lost in its graphicness – and “Judge Dredd: Desperdlands” continually pulls this off. Chapter 3 is no exception. In fact, it’s looking like it’s the rule.
Durham Red: Served Cold 04
Credits: Alec Worley (script), Ben Willsher (art), Jim Cambell(letters)
Michael Mazzacane: The lack of visual clarity I discussed in the previous strip is gone in the fourth entry of ‘Served Cold.’ Worley and Willsher create a strip that is an extended chase sequence as Durham and the Sheriff try to make it to his workshop and not get blown to bits by the overwhelming firepower coming down on them.
Willsher shows a clear eye for action setting up pages that are at once run and gun action as it is comedy, where one action leads to a comedic reaction. This rhythm gives the strip a good pace that is fast but not shallow. It’s a fine line in action sequences between making bombastic, spectacular images, and the beat-based sequencing that gives their chase something to chew on instead of being all glanceable information.
Worley gets in a few decent one liners, they’re obvious but not terrible.
I haven’t been the biggest fan of Willsher’s overall style, but there is some reflection work he does in the helmets on the last page that stands out. On one hand it’s the kind of realistic rendering that their use of color, overall, doesn’t account for, but is nevertheless an excellent image that funnels the reader into the big teasing final panel that sets up the next strip.
Slaine: Dragontamer Part 4
Credits: Pat Mills (script), Leonardo Manco (art), Annie Parkhouse (letters)
Ryan Pond: The way that this team rolls from one story to the next is some of my favorites in 2000 AD because they cap the previous story and then use the title page as a transition into the current story. Coming from the last story, we know that there are riders on the storm headed for Slaine and a lot of innocent people.
Enough can’t be said for how versatile and detailed Manco’s artwork is in this story. From scenes of fire and massacre to scenes of oversized spirits tapping into the minds of the enemy, Manco perfectly represents all of it with single pages splashes that act as backgrounds for a larger than life storytelling. Other times, he chooses to go with thin, vertical panels that give the grandiose perspective of dragons flying through the heavens high above the action below.Continued below
Mills does a great job of inter-splicing dialogue in the real world with the narration of wizards and druids as they root around in someone else’s mind for information to use against them. Using the magical abilities that were revealed in part 3, Slaine is able to defeat an entire army of riders by simply cursing the commanding officer’s family and driving him back against his own subordinates before taking his head off in one fell swoop of his battleaxe.
Slaine is caught in a tough spot as trouble follows him back to a place he isn’t welcome. But a little ancestral magic helps even the odds and save the village.
Proteus Vex: The Shadow Chancellor Part 4
Credits: Mike Carroll (script), Jake Lynch (art), Jim Boswell (colors), Simon Bowland (letters)
Greg Lincoln: The arrival of Vex and Midnight as last week’s chapter ended altered the course of that battle at the Eremoli outpost. They saved the life of Navarch Andrum, a new character we met as chapter three opened. Seems we may be meeting more members of the race that Proteus Vex is from, or at least the body he pilots. Lynch and Boswell’s art style has started to more well define Proteus Vex’s look. The art actually is filling out more of the world too: all the accents on Vex’s outfit that once seemed to be decoration now seem to have more purpose. Perhaps they are rank marks or have some utility as the others seem to have variations of them too.
Midnight indicating shame may not be featured a lot in these pages, but she stands out as the smartest, most effective, and perhaps funniest character in the story. Her misunderstanding of Commander Tross’s use of the word ‘specialist’ is a good story beat. It leads really nicely to Midnight’s negotiation for her further freedom after literally vomiting up a live Silent captive. Her bargaining chip, I hope, gains her at least a bit more freedom and a continuing role in this story. “Proteus Vex” just would not be the same without his partner. Lynch’s art and design contains some sly bits of humor this week; the expressions he gives to Midnight and to the crew members of Commander Tross’s ship made me near laugh out loud. I don’t know what it is about the aid with the pirate like eyepatch, but the image itself is funny.
Hershey: The Brutal, Part 4
Credits: Rob Williams (Script), Simon Fraser (Art), Simon Bowland (Letters)
Christopher Egan: So, we are now four chapters in on “Hershey: The Brutal” and it has been quite enjoyable for the last three issues, but it’s becoming less cohesive as it goes on. By this point it seemed there would be more of a clear path laid before us. Ambiguity is something that works well for many stories, it could even work here, but so far this series has felt like a parade of loosely connected anecdotes. Assumptions can be made as to where it is going, but assumptions aren’t as fun as theories. Theories based on story events or clues, and that simply isn’t the case here. This just seems to be moving along with no real purpose; though I am sure there is one coming.
I can’t even say that this week’s chapter is any weaker than the previous. Technically speaking it isn’t, it just doesn’t do much to move this series forward. I wish it did. The glimpse into Hershey’s childhood and induction to the academy was an unexpected and welcome change, but where is it leading us? We get more boxing scenes with Frank that mirror moments from Hershey’s past, but, and I say this gently, who cares?
This departure from the typical “Judge Dredd” type of storytelling has been a nice change pace. It feels connected to the canon, while still being distant and stylistically different. It just needs to give us something more than ‘different’ to make this journey worth it.
As with the previous chapters, Fraser’s work is quite good and pulls us into the story. However, some of the pages here seem rushed and simply not as good as the previous chapters. Though this could be a choice made when moving the plot between the two different time periods. The color work matches up and still does an excellent job of setting the mood. It would be nice if the story could evoke the same level of feeling from me. My feelings over “Hershey: The Brutal” are swinging in a direction I did not expect, and do not care for.
I would rather love or hate a series than move into total indifference. I hope by the end of it I will be fully engaged with the work once again.