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: Tread softly, Part 1
Credits: Mike Carroll(script), Simon Coleby (art), John Charles (colors), Annie Parkhouse (letters)
Christopher Egan: Long time “Judge Dredd” writer Mike Carroll does something really unexpected with this new strip; he makes Dredd a bit more empathetic towards people he is busting. In a way that is briefly seen here and there throughout the character’s decades long run. It’s a side that, if I’m being honest, is something that is needed to keep that character all the more complex and enjoyable to read. It is always a tough thing to bring to Joseph Dredd, as the core idea that spawned this character and the post-apocalyptic world he inhabits, is that we should not be rooting for this kind of future and this kind of law enforcement. Showing that he is still partly human goes a long way in keeping us invested in him. In this opening chapter Dredd is hunting down a dealer of dreams, an addiction that runs so deep in some of the lowest citizens of Mega City One it is no different than a narcotics addiction, and our titular enforcer understands this; in a way I was not expecting. Having Dredd show any sort of compassion is a breath of fresh air and I welcome it from time to time.
This strip ends on an interesting note of our narrator, who though it is a little unclear, I believe to be the only other Judge in the story, Vanzuria, is not happy with how Dredd handles this operation knowing that the dealer, Rosewater Vale, will do anything she can to get away, killing everyone and everything in her path. Carroll is still having us question this spark of humanity in Dredd by having it be a liability in this raid.
Simon Coleby’s artwork is finely detailed, gritty, nasty, and gives us a somewhat realistic look at this world, while keeping certain details a bit out of the ordinary or uncanny. His Mega City One leans in a more practical manner. John Charles’s color work is nicely done, he gives full attention to the things that will grab us the most, Dredd and the other Judges uniforms, certain specific details like vehicles, and splashes of vibrancy like a character’s pink mohawk for example. The regular clothing, skin tones, buildings, etc all get a bleak , but believable palette, with It’s a nice way to keep things naturalistic while allowing for the flashy sci-fi stuff to get pushed to the forefront as your eye moves over the page.
A very solid opening chapter that uses its most fascinating feature – Dredd’s decisions – as the weight of the story, while keeping the action to the minimum and purposefully spread out.
The Diaboliks: London Calling Part 1
Credits: Gordon Rennie (Script), Dom Reardon (Art), Jim Campbell (Letters)
Greg Lincoln: “The Diaboliks: London Calling” is a solid introduction to the predictably dry, darkly humorous, more than slightly seedy occult underworld of England. Gordon Rennie connects it to the highpoints or, well, low points of the British occupy mythos mentioning ley lines, Alastair Crowley, Springheel Jack, and John Dee to name a few. He brings in some clever occult cameos for Soloman to fight while the punk Brit occult n’er-do-wells meet. It’s all a bit pre-amble-y in its introduction of the players for this arc, but it lays a solid hook to get us back next week.
Dom Reardon stands out as it’s his art that sets that hook. He creates some very convincingly punk characters for the British cast members. His craggy, angular, blocky ink style creates a convincingly macabre atmosphere, it sells the various occult creatures including the Greater Spawn of Yth that make an appearance, even if it’s momentary. He finished out this week with a intriguing rogues gallery that our heroes, if that is what they are, will have to dispose of in the coming weeks. We can only hope the script lives up to what that image promises.Continued below
Scarlet Traces: Storm Front – Part Seven
Credits Ian Edginton (script), D’Israeli (art), Simon Bowland(letters)
Michael Mazzacane: The seventh episode of ‘Storm Front’ offers the closest thing to a synthesis of two tonalities artist D’Israeli and writer Ian Edginton have been playing at for the past month or so. On one hand there is the epic space battle going on with its punchy bright colors that discounting subject matter are closer to the work of Jen Bartel than Star Wars. On the other hand, or more accurately inside of that, is a smaller family drama playing out. A microcosm of this epic macro conflict. Previous strips have focused primarily on one or the other, ‘Storm Front’ part 7 manages to juggle both of them as each position becomes increasingly untenable.
D’Isareli really giving each story thread its own distinct style is what makes this strip effective as they’re able to easily juxtapose one off the other. Look at the first page it’s a clash of styles, so discordant that even if you didn’t read the words, you’d understand that it is a state that cannot hold. This is only one page, but it leaves an impression, and one could easily imagine the rhythmic thumping of blaster impact. Simon Bowland’s a busy letterer, and if the script didn’t call for it why make more work, but some onomatopoeia in the following pages would’ve been a nice discordant reminder of the outside going on. D’Israeli does drop out the background in several spaces which serves as a visual reminder of how insecure everything is but lacks the impact of a “BWAM” or something.
The sudden discussion of Western imperialism fits right in as our makeshift crew wonder if they shouldn’t let the Martian’s wipe out earth in a suicide move. This being the alt-mid-fifties and everything the legacies of colonialism run through this series in very pronounced ways. The justification of invading Venus and Mercury would make all the sense in the world to human ears. It’s an interesting threat to leave dangling out there.
Philosophical discourse aside, if the creative team wish to continue it with this batch of characters they need to get them off the ship fast. As Edgington writes an effective cliffhanger to set up episode 8 and hopefully the conclusion to this battle in space.
Future Shocks: Keyboard Warriors
Credits: Karl Stock (script), Rob Richardson (art), Simon Bowland (letters)
Matthew Blair: Humanity has reached the stars, and with the stars comes the opportunity for untold riches in the form of natural resources. While the human mining corporation is supposed to peacefully relocate the primitive inhabitants of the planet Maltroxia IV before strip mining the planet bare, it’s either too expensive or time consuming so they’ve decided to simply kill them all and be done with it.
Fortunately for the company employees, they have remote controlled robots that allow them to commit their genocide from the comfort of their cubicles. Unfortunately for them, there are forces at work on the planet that can reach across the stars and end them.
“Future Shocks Keyboard Warriors” is written by Karl Stock, who tells a good story and demonstrates a keen understanding of sci-fi military tropes. Stock does a great job of balancing military action with the realities of a cubicle desk job that warfare has become and goes out of his way to make the human “soldiers” of the story relatable and life-like. While this type of story is probably not very well suited towards the format of Future Shocks, Stock does manage to throw in a pretty effective twist ending that takes a lot of the stereotypes of a highly advanced sci-fi military force going up against primative people and successfully turns them on their head.
The artwork for “Future Shocks Keyboard Warriors” is provided by Rob Richardson. The story is presented in simple black and white but Richardson uses solid linework and heavy shadow to give the story a ton of atmosphere. Most of that atmosphere is used in the military scenes that strongly evoke the Vietnam War, with groups of robot soldiers patrolling the jungle and shooting from the hip at unseen threats. This is juxtaposed nicely with the brightly lit office spaces of the actual humans, which look very ordinary and boring. It’s a nice touch and all comes together very well.Continued below
“Future Shocks Keyboard Warriors” is a familiar story with familiar tropes in a very familiar genre that could have very easily fallen back on cliches and expectations. However, the solid writing and great artwork combine to make it just different enough from all the other sci-fi shoot ‘em ups to make a great Future Shock.
The Out: Book Two, Part 7
Credits: Dan Abnett (script), Mark Harrison (art), Annie Parkhouse (letters)
Brian Salvatore: You want to know how much of a legend David Bowie is? Whenever a comic tries to show us what a futuristic performer is like, 99% of the time, they’re just copping Bowie. He was so ahead of his time that he still seems futuristic, five years in the grave.
When Cyd realizes that Robert Lustre is the Robert Lustre, she feels stupid for not putting two and two together. But this is further proof of her isolation within “The Out;” she’s so far from home, she’s forgotten even the most key parts of Earth culture. To Dan Abnett’s credit, Cyd’s situation isn’t always reading as sad or melancholy; that exists on the fringe of each story, much like how she likely tries to push those moments out of her head. And even here, Cyd feels foolish for not realizing how Lustre is, but isn’t sad that she’s forgotten. Or, at least, she doesn’t give off that feeling.
Mark Harrison doesn’t make Lustre look like Bowie, aside from being a white dude, except that Bowie had so many phases/looks that almost anything can be seen as a reference. So, sure, could his suit be a “Let’s Dance” era nod? I suppose. But even Bowie couldn’t ‘slice time,’ so there’s something that Lustre has over him.
One of the most interesting pieces of this installment is how Abnett and Harrison are drawing comparisons between the rockstar and the photographer. Both left Earth for reasons that some would think are not worth uprooting your whole life over. Both have reinvented themselves in ways that wouldn’t be possible on Earth. Both are successful, but alone. It’ll be very interesting to see how they connect next strip.