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: Grinder
Credits: Ken Neimand (script), Nick Dyer (art), Gary Caldwell (colors), Annie Parkhouse (letters)
Greg Lincoln: ‘Grinder’ is a real joy of a one off story. Sure, it might be filler, but the antagonist is so full of life, character, and motivation you can’t help but be pulled into his plight. It’s a driven, motivated would be hunter and it’s thwarted at every pass. Coming from somewhere else it chose something to inhabit, and it chose something mighty but, sadly, stationary and limited. It’s funny how as this story goes on, you can easily find yourself identifying with the endless suffering expressed by this would be destroyer. Neimand builds the tension until both the Grinder and we can’t take it no more. The poor wretch who vomited into the grinder broke the camels back. The ensuing battle with Dredd is a fun, all-too-brief romp with spewing garbage and a humorous dialogue. The punchline of the story, the “second age of new flesh” is as funny as it is horrible to contemplate. It’s a great satire on the inter-dimensional invasion trope in the best possible way. It’s not serious, but somehow also totally is.
Nick Dyer and Gary Caldwell created some very amusing scenes to go with this serious and satirical strip. The pacing in the story, in particularly Dyer’s use of the nine panel grid gave ‘Grinder’ a palpable feeling of the passage of time. It reinforced the narrations of the repetitious abuse that the Grinder was experiencing. They clearly spelled out in ink and color the abuse that the Grinder suffers, particularly in the moment that it thinks “This world is Hell.” This is very much show over tell, and they really make Dredd’s world look lived in, grimy and dirty. The streets, the Grinder, and Dredd himself are convincingly soiled after the gross garbage blast and are in need of cleaning. By the time the Grinder frees itself, we want to see it wreak havoc simply because of what we have seen it suffer. The visual gags they pulled are laugh out loud funny even if slapstick. Annie Parkhouse craftily chose fonts that were just different enough that we unconsciously read them with a different tone. It all visually hangs together so well and, even though it’s a one shot gag, strip I do kinda want to see this villain again. But maybe not as a sentient outhouse. We can pretty much guess how well that one goes.
Hope: In The Shadows – Reel One, Part Ten
Credits: Guy Davis (Script), Jimmy Broxton (Art), Jim Campbell (Letters)
Christopher Egan: This week continues the wild spiral from the last chapter. Sexual fantasy, desire, and bloody gore come together in a grisly fashion that keeps the story wheels spinning. While the set dressing is bizarre and hellish, this chapter does focus more heavily on quiet discussion.
This strip as a whole has taken chances and has pivoted into different story styles and plot threads. And much like the overall story, this chapter goes through plot and genre changes in some wonderfully gross ways. Leaving so many answers up in the air is what this strip has been trading in and this week is no different.
Skip Tracer: Valhalla Part One
Credits: James Peaty (script), Paul Marshall (art), Dylan Teague (colours), Simon Bowland(letters)
Michael Mazzacane: The creative team continues to do a good job of just leaning into the tense and ongoing parenting dynamics between Nolan and his daughter. The two share a honestly nice quiet moment of mutual understanding as Nolan grapples with his limits as a parent and the runaway cycle they’ve gotten themselves into with no sign of breaking it. That is until a rocket bursts onto the frame and does that for them, destroying the RV and Dylan Teague coloring the remainder of pages in vibrant reds and oranges.Continued below
From there the strip is mechanical in what comes next. The two assailants walk through the smoke and flames to reveal themselves. Nolan vainly tries to stop them. The two hitwomen make light banter about working for a “her highness” and come out of the shadows themselves. Revealing one of them to be just a straight up Shojo character! I get that the Cube is supposed to be a Mega City-esque space but didn’t expect such a juxtaposition of art styles. I’m here for it.
The pace of this strip continues to be not so much “slow” as clearly measured. One big event happens per strip, with a solid two pages or so of quiet character work. Not that character work cannot happen during the set piece moment, but just noting how Peaty uses these two structural elements to balance off one another. It makes for an interesting reading experience after getting used to the rhythms of so many “2000 AD” strips. Curious to see how that will continue going forward with our protagonists captured.
Terror Tales: Music of the Spheres
Credits: Kek-W (script), Warren Pleece (art), Annie Parkhouse (letters)
Matthew Blair: Musicians are a strange and borderline crazy group of people. I know because I used to be a professional musician a long time ago. Maybe it’s because they spend so much time practicing that they’ll do or say whatever it takes in order to justify the borderline fanaticism it takes to hone one’s musical skill, or maybe a musician is in tune (pun intended) to some part of the human experience that just feels bigger and grander than everyday life.
“Terror Tales: Music of the Spheres” tells the story of two cops who learn that a washed up musician has discovered a realm of music that is much deeper, more fundamental, and much deadlier than anything ever heard by human ears.
“Terror Tales: Music of the Spheres” is written by Kek-W, who has taken the concept of universal music to a logical extreme and created a very interesting story. It’s got all the elements of classic Lovecraftian horror, but instead of the more traditional use of things like color and eldritch monsters, the story uses sound and music. While a lack of sound is one of the drawbacks of the comic book medium, Kek-W does an effective job of showing the horror of the situation through the character’s and their reactions to the situation, creating a palpable fear of the unknown in just a few pages.
The artwork for “Terror Tales: Music of the Spheres” is provided by Warren Pleece, and while the art makes a lot of safe choices it’s still effective and enhances the horror of the situation. The best part about Pleece’s artwork is the facial expressions of the characters. By using deceptively simple line work and minimal detail he is able to really capture the desperate insanity of everyone losing their minds. It would have been interesting to see what Pleece could do with weird panel layouts and more room to experiment as the characters are twisted and warped by the strange tones, but the length of the story and the constraints of time and deadlines are sad, but necessary, limitations.
“Terror Tales: Music of the Spheres” is a solid Lovecraftian tale of humans discovering something so deep, dark, and primal that the very foundation of their existence is shaken to its core. It’s a descent into madness that is far too short, but is a lot of fun to read.
Brink: Mercury Retrograde Part 17
Credits: Dan Abnett (script), INJ Culbard (art), Simon Bowland (letters)
Brian Salvatore: As the world around Maz starts to come into focus, the world around the world around Maz has fallen into disarray. With communications around Mercury totally down, people are freaking out, and Maz’s story suddenly doesn’t appear so urgent or incendiary. But then Tobin thinks: the world is going to shit, and there’s nothing he can report, really. So, he lets Maz speak, and he sees what Maz has seen: there’s a story here.
One of the best parts about ‘Mercury Retrograde’ thus far is how Dan Abnett is playing with the reader in regards to Maz’s sanity. One week he seems to be totally lost, the other, he’s back in command. This doesn’t read as poor writing, but rather a portrait of someone who gets lost in their work to staggering degrees. While the strip has been redundant at times and dull at others, the characterization of Maz has always felt pretty consistent.
Similarly consistent is INJ Culbard doing a lot with subtlety. A few pages of this installment are intercut with the faces of people dealing with the loss of communication. Culbard is drawing people who are trying to keep their shit together while not looking like they are trying to keep their shit together. Culbard has had to draw quite a few scenes of relative stillness in this strip, but he keeps finding ways to make them more interesting than they have any right being.