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: The Musical, Part 1
Credits: Rob Williams (Script), Chris Weston (Art), Gary Caldwell (Colors), Annie Parkhouse (Letters)
Christopher Egan: Probably one of the more surprising entries in “Judge Dredd” in recent years. “The Musical” follows a crocodile mutant named Klegg, who had some major success in Sino-Cit as a rap artist. As his career starts to fall off, Klegg tries other avenues to sate his need for creating music, whether it be underground rap battles or creating a musical about Judge Dredd himself, with full book of rap music.
This story teeters on the line between silly and heartbreaking and is purposefully attempting to be both. Poor Klegg just can’t catch a break after Sino-Cit. He loses popularity after two failed albums, he’s unknowingly scammed out of the majority of his money by his manager, and people are either terrified of him or simply want nothing to do with him. Some of these things he is oblivious to, others – like the rap battle participants running from him in terror – actually cause him to cry. In both accounts you can’t help but feel bad for the guy. Seeing this outsider, who should be on top, get crushed by the world is such a downer. And yet, there is still space for quirky humor to it all. As his time in Mega City One continues to get him down, he eventually gets the idea for the musical and his attitude begins to turn around, briefly.
Weston’s art is very good, but mostly standard fare for current Dredd. Nothing outside of the box – aside from crocodile man protagonist. It’s nicely detailed and we get a good look at various locations that all feel very lived-in. The pages are all densely populated with people and their surroundings. The colors by Caldwell are vibrant and, while also typical for this world, really give a full sense of it. It’s a wide ranging palette. Beautifully done.
The overall tone of this opening chapter doesn’t always land. Williams either takes it all the way sad or all the way goofy. It’s a tough balancing act. The attempt at blending these tones is something that goes back to the earliest movies with down on their luck characters in the center of comedic stories. The idea is there, but it struck my heartstrings more than my funny bone.
“The Musical” Part 1 is a good opening chapter that I found myself actually wishing was longer, as it unleashed more empathy than chuckles from me.
The Diaboliks: London Calling Part 3
Credits: Gordon Rennie (Script), Dom Reardon (Art), Jim Campbell (Letters)
Greg Lincoln: Apparently, there is a lot we didn’t know about Solomon, and that we seems to include Solomon himself. Gordon Rennie pulls in a lot of real world and pop-ish folklore evil in “Diaboliks,” but Nazis are a bit of a surprise. Solomon having been one is a bigger surprise, and his actions and position in the memory that comes back to him this week is an even bigger one. Jake proves himself to be a rock and roll occult powerhouse as he singlehandedly defeats some of the enemies that thought they had the drop on him and Solomon. His pages of battle make a good foil for the talking heads scenes that follow Solomon in his flashback.
Dom Reardon’s art brings the impact of the surprises in the weeks part. His facial expressions are exciting, exaggerated and plastic in a way that brings up the level of the feeling in Rennie’s story. Looking at how little really happens in this week, the art makes this otherwise quick little middle chapter have a sense of space and time. There is an odd airiness in the mount of open space Reardon leaves in this chapter and makes the moment of darkness in the end stand out. The sound effects Jim Campbell put in stand out and make hear them as you read.Continued below
Scarlet Traces: Storm Front – Part Nine
Credits Ian Edginton (script), D’Israeli (art), Simon Bowland(letters)
Michael Mazzacane: Unsurprisingly “Scarlet Traces” is a very British strip in many regards, but reworking Neville Chamberlain into both an ironic pun and sentimental statement of intent is a real stroke by Ian Edginton and D’Israeli. The moment only works because D’Israeli has kept such a peaceful strip, momentary psycho-electrocution aside, with its pure white backgrounds and emphasis on character acting the ninth entry in “Scarlet Traces” is a respite from weeks of action. Even previous more talk oriented strips are notably punctuated by spasms of violence. Those spasms hang over this strip and come suddenly crashing down in the final page with the ominous promise of a war to end all wars if peace is not found.
Otherwise there both is and isn’t a lot to do in this strip. On one hand with its pure white background and quartet of characters it is a simple and straightforward strip ably put together by D’Israeli’s craftsmanship. On the other it gestures towards much messier concepts like the process of peacemaking after decades of conflict, especially when one is a tyrannical imperialist. Like this review Ian Edginton doesn’t have the space to really unpack what the peace process would look like if it’s even possible. It can only gesture and hope for this better future, one that will be put in place in the next strip and the one after that and so on.
This particular strip really is unlike other strips in “2000 AD,” that change of pace is appreciated and allows it to stand out in a sea of sci-fi action.
Dexter – Bulletopia Chapter Seven: Lordy Jordy King of Everything, Part 2
Credits: Dan Abnett(script) Tazio Bettin (art) Matt Sofie (colors) Simon Bowland (lettering)
Matthew Blair: They say the best laid plans of mice and men often go awry, which is a saying that goes double for comic book characters. In the case of Dexter and his crew, the crime boss they were supposed to meet is not there, it’s just one of his lackeys who has been gaining more and more power lately and controls an army of remote controlled dinosaurs.
Surely, this will go well.
“Sinister Dexter” Part 2 continues to be a vehicle for writer Dan Abnett to show off his talents for dialogue, cool action, and fun characters. Abnett understands exactly what his readers want with a very entertaining action scene at the beginning of the story before moving back to more exposition and setup. The new crime lord is a very smart and pragmatic character who understands the dangers of the rogue A.I on the loose and has gone extremely low tech. It will be interesting to see how he gets along with the rest of the group.
Tazio Bettin’s artwork is great in “Sinister Dexter” Part 2 and the story allows for Bettin to show off his talents and draw some really cool looking dinosaurs and more decrepit ruins. While the action and backgrounds are well done, the needs of the story require Bettin to focus more on characters and dialogue. While the story is short, Bettin keeps the panel count high and the angles and shots varied enough to keep the talkative scenes interesting.
“Sinister Dexter” Part 2 is a story with more action and intrigue than the previous section, but continues to be more focused on set up and introducing more plot elements and while they are good plot elements with a lot of potential, the highlight of the story so far has been the action scene at the beginning.
The Out: Book Two, Part 9
Credits: Dan Abnett (script), Mark Harrison (art), Annie Parkhouse (letters)
Brian Salvatore: For being a sci-fi story set in a fictional realm, “The Out” has always kept itself relatively grounded. Although the worlds and creatures have looked quite different, Cyd’s experience as a gruff Earther has kept the book feeling more like a travelogue than a more traditional space fantasy.
This week, all of that goes out the window.
In a scene that feels straight out of Contact, Cyd is able to talk to Joey, her daughter, although the exact details are a little fuzzy. Joey claims that it is ‘really’ her, but also will admit that she looks like how Cyd imagines her looking. You get the impression that Cyd is both telling herself what she wants to hear and also, just maybe, having some sort of connection with her daughter. Regardless, this is a big deal for Cyd, regardless of how accurate the experience is to reality.
Mark Harrison has to do a lot of subtle comic booking here, making Joey look both ‘real’ and ethereal, while Dan Abnett is having to qualify everything she says but still make her feel authentic. It’s a tightrope to walk, but this strip continues to exceed expectations by threading those needles. This story ends on a cliffhanger, but almost everything from this point out will feel different. Cyd knows where Joey is – maybe. She knows she’s safe – maybe. She can be at peace with it – maybe. If she survives the invasion, that is.