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 2
Credits: Mike Carroll(script), Simon Coleby (art), John Charles (colors), Annie Parkhouse (letters)
Christopher Egan: Rosewater Vale’s ‘scorched earth policy’ comes into effect right from the first frame. Dredd rushes in ‘guns blazing’ as relayed by our narrator, and the story continues to get darker and nastier with each subsequent panel. The script is about as prominent as the last chapter, but it feels to move maybe a hair quicker as it flows with the brutal action. Carroll gives us more interplay between the dialogue being shouted over gunfire and the narrator’s part of the story in a way that again, wants us to be sure how we feel about how things are happening. It feels like we should be on Dredd’s side, he is showing compassion for the victims and addicts, while wanting to take down the real villain at the center of the storm, but as other Judges are looking to evaluate his choices, and call into account that he isn’t as young as he used to be, we begin to wonder about what the real meaning is here. Are we to follow Dredd and see if his life could take a new turn, away from the Justice Department, or is this just a detail that isn’t really going to go anywhere? As the chapter, and the story, closes, we are left mulling this over so it feels too important to just be a throwaway idea.
The art team of Coleby and Charles continue their excellent work from part 1, and while giving us plenty of the nasty violence we come to expect, don’t necessarily glorify it. It’s dark and ugly. They also bless us with character and setting designs that match the contemplative nature of this strip. It’s really great work all around.
We aren’t usually left with big open-ended ideas in “Judge Dredd” strips, or at least it has been some time, and this is the first moment in a long time that feels like it could bring about some sort of major change with the character and the over-arching story.
The Diaboliks: London Calling Part 2
Credits: Gordon Rennie (Script), Dom Reardon (Art), Jim Campbell (Letters)
Greg Lincoln: ‘London Calling’ part 2 opens as Solomon is preemptively gifting himself with his enemy’s hideout as the doubtfully heroic trio plot their assault. Everting seems to go swimmingly as the spirit of the alchemist scouts the hideout…until it doesn’t. Gordon Rennie cleverly uses this sequence to introduce some of this story’s antagonists and their foibles, as well as those of our heroes. We also learn what exactly was stolen from Jake; it’s fittingly occult paraphernalia from rock and roll stars, so at least the title really fits. Solomon and his friends are mostly overconfident and, when it all falls apart and revealed as a trap, it’s a bit of a fun and fitting shock. Solomon, for all his confident bravado, is not infallible, and the revelation of where he met their assailant met is a fun reveal.
Dom Reardon stages the story and tell the tale very entertainingly. The journey through the house is full of some choice angels and and scenes at the alchemist passes from one scene to another. Reardon is great at suggesting full characters with just some well placed feet or a shocked look. Black and white suggestive images very much suits horror stories; somehow its starker nature is better at hinting at horror than color and realistic art.
Scarlet Traces: Storm Front – Part Eight
Credits Ian Edginton (script), D’Israeli (art), Simon Bowland(letters)
Michael Mazzacane: It’s been a while since I’ve been enamoured by the writing craft in a 2000 AD strip, they’re all largely fine but you begin to see the layouts and strings a bit. The strings being pulled by Ian Edginton and D’Israeli are still evident, however, I am nevertheless charmed with what this particular episode manages to do. Most of the strips in this run have hyper focused around singular events (ex. this strip we board, this strip we get inside, etc.) You could argue there is a single mindedness to the eighth entry in ‘Stormfront’ picking up right as the Jovian torpedo’s impact and rupture the Martian shields. The creative team also just builds in time for some moments of body horror and reassert the brief calls for kindness that are strewn throughout the series. It all just does a lot with a little.Continued below
D’Israeli does a lot in a few pages once again playing off the psychedelic space battle exteriors with an increasingly garish red with the green-grey, now even more moribund and Nurgle-esque, interior of the strip. They add a third aesthetic, the kind of chalky cartooning of the mind space from the opening strips, a realm of dreams, with their big white infinite spaces, bright character designs, and simplified features. These distinct art styles help to give the strip a real sense of pace and progression in ways previous episodes haven’t had.
In between all this aesthetic play is a return to form for “Scarlet Traces” as the call for basic kindness and an attempt to NOT just stupidly commit violence against one another is reasserted. The intoxicating logic of violence is felt when the idea of talking is disregarded out of hand, of course the Martians won’t stop or help us because they do not care. Said the Martian hybrid who is helping the Earthlings and their allies at the very moment. It isn’t a long sequence, all of one page and 4 panels in particular, but it stands out in a series gripped by overdetermined violence. This kind of emotional shift is what has me interested in the series as it reaches the conclusion in a few weeks, not the plot.
Dexter – Bulletopia Chapter Seven: Lordy Jordy King of Everything, Part 1
Credits: Dan Abnett(script) Tazio Bettin (art) Matt Sofie (colors) Simon Bowland (lettering)
Matthew Blair: “Sinister Dexter” is a long running comic series that’s been a staple of the 2000 AD Progs. The story follows a pair of hitmen for hire named Sinister (Latin for “left”) and Dexter (Latin for “right”) who live in the near future European city of Downlode.
In this Prog story titled “Dexter Bulletopia Chapter Seven: Lordy Jordy King of Everything Part 1”, which for the sake of the review will be shortened to “Dexter Bulletopia Chapter Seven Part 1”, Dexter is on the run from a murderous A.I modeled after his former partner with a ragtag team of fellow assassins and former crime lords. They stumble into an abandoned section of the city that is home to a former biohazard site, weapons storage depot, and the emergency HQ of a crime boss that hates everyone’s guts.
Certainly nothing can go wrong here.
“Dexter Bulletopia Chapter Seven Part 1” is penned by series creator and longtime scribe Dan Abnett, who at this point is one of the most well respected and beloved writers in British comics and British science fiction. Abnett has been working with these characters for years and as a result jumping into this story can be a bit daunting for new readers. However, Abnett does a very good job of getting the audience up to speed on where the characters are, what they’re doing, and their relationship with each other. Abnett spends most of the book setting up the characters and creating a wonderfully tense atmosphere of distrust and paranoia, which should serve as fertile ground for great storytelling down the line.
The art is drawn by Tazio Bettin, who has created a literal cesspit filled with swamps of toxic goo and decrepit buildings for the characters to play around in. While most of the story is taken up by characters talking to each other, Bettin does his best to make the dialogue look interesting and give the characters plenty of personality. Like the writing, the artwork serves the story well and has plenty of potential further down the line.
“Dexter Bulletopia Chapter Seven Part 1” is a talkative, yet solid, reintroduction of one of 2000AD’s greatest stories that promises plenty of intrigue and lots of cool ideas.
The Out: Book Two, Part 8
Credits: Dan Abnett (script), Mark Harrison (art), Annie Parkhouse (letters)
Brian Salvatore: After nearly two full books, Cyd has perhaps her most human reactions back to back in this week’s strip: she gives into her carnal desires, and she hopes for something that seems impossible.
There are times in “The Out” where Cyd seems like a misrepresentation of what humans are. Cyd is trying really hard to not be what is expected of a human being in the Out. She’s pushing against stereotype, against sentimentality, and against having any needs but what she wants to project to others. The fact that Robert Lustre somewhat broke down her defenses both shows how special he is, even to someone who doesn’t really care about his fame, and also just how much she still needs actual human interaction. Just because she has deprived herself of something, it doesn’t mean that she doesn’t still have a purpose for it.
Especially effective in this chapter is how Mark Harrison draws both some of the most out-there imagery – floating blackholes, for instance – but also has to show Cyd at her most vulnerable. I’m trying not to keep saying ‘most human,’ but her humanity is on full display here. The final page, in addition to showing the most of her human body we’ve seen, also shows nearly all of her heart, as she sees something that seems impossible, too good to be true, and possibly sinister. Is this Robert’s doing? Is she dreaming? Has her subconscious created her wildest fantasy, as Robert’s seems to have done for him? Is this the path to “The Up?”
Let’s hope there are answers next week.